The problems surrounding health insurance marketplaces do not seem to be abating. Last week was wrought with more issues, some of which were not wholly unexpected. However, all is not lost for Obamacare yet. There has been some good news as well. Let’s take a look at what has been happening in and around the exchanges, the major challenges that the government has been dealing with, and the pieces of good news that have been trickling in throughout last week.
What’s troubling the Government?
• Healthcare.gov site is riddled with bugs and errors that are affecting enrollments and preventing people from signing up. The situation went way out of control a few weeks ago when on a Sunday night one of the vendors that service the site suffered a major failure. The website was rendered offline, causing the browsing and signing up process to suffer across the nation.
• The failure had widespread impact. However, quick action got immediate results and by 7 am, Monday, the data hub of the central site was online again. By Monday midday, the remaining website was up and running perfectly. Although the officials are still not sure how many people suffered from downtime, the opposition found another chink in Obamacare’s armor. The website is not fixed yet and there is still a lot of effort required for meeting the ambitious goals set by the health reform. However the administration has stated that the problems would be fixed by the end of November.
• While this is going on, officials are experiencing another problem – automatic cancellations of old health insurance. FFM is automatically cancelling insurance of individuals and sending them notices about it. They will be required to buy new insurance, and it is possible that it will cost them a lot more than they were paying previously. Nearly 14 million people are at the risk of being affected by this new problem, and this could quickly become a huge PR issue for the administration.
While there is a deluge of challenges marring the smooth operation of healthcare.gov, there are some good signs as well. Last week saw some major positive developments – let’s take a look at them.
Obama’s Reasons to Rejoice
After a chain of fiascos, especially the very public failure of healthcare.gov, some positive developments are helping the Obama administration through all the mess. The biggest piece of news that has brought a positive drift into the mix is targeted at the Medicare population.
• Officials have revealed that for the 49 million people on Medicare, 2014 will not bring any increase to premiums and deductibles. Contrary to what was widely expected in 2013, this piece of news is a hint at something much grander. This is the third year where these costs have stayed the same, well below the projections. Even as seniors are, at best, marginally enthusiastic for the Affordable Care Act, the reform has helped them save about $8 billion by closing the prescription drug donut hole coverage gap. The prescription drug closure has always been a core strength of the Obamacare act, and this news shows how the administration is making the most of it.
• However, the news regarding premiums for Medicare dependents is not the only good thing that happened to Obamacare last week. The official website is showing improvement with each passing day and industry experts are agreeing with the improvements. Although there are a lot of errors and bugs still needing attention, the website continues to improve. The individual market is seeing benefits for people with pre-existing conditions, senior citizens and women. While some people are losing the incentives, the winners are getting a lot more.
• And that’s not all. In a major move, the Obama government has extended the enrollment period by 6 months. This has taken a lot of pressure off navigators, individuals, and officials responsible for the federal marketplace. Due to building pressure from opposition and general population, the administration has decided to delay the enrollment deadline to March 31, 2014. No penalties would be levied on uninsured citizens in this period. Effectively, people need to enroll themselves by February 15 to ensure that they are covered after March 31, 2014.
Although new challenges are impacting the federal marketplace continuously, officials are working hard to ensure that the deadlines are met. Currently, the healthcare.gov is supposed to be completely fixed by November 15. Currently, the target looks achievable for the administration. However, whether that would bring lasting stability in the health reform market still remains a question.