With the shutdown resolved, President Obama can now turn his attention to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, whose launch has gone so poorly that former White House Press Secretary and longtime Obama adviser Robert Gibbs has called the start of the program “excruciatingly embarrassing.”
More than two weeks into the roll-out of one of the president’s signature initiatives, it remains difficult for people to sign up for insurance via HealthCare.gov, the site that residents of 34 states must use. “Consumers Still Face Problems Accessing Health Insurance Exchange,” was the headline on the website of Atlanta’s NPR station this week. The Washington Post‘s Sarah Kliff, the paper’s health care expert, described yesterday how “after two weeks of trying, I was able to successfully apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov.”
A Michigan state government official told the Detroit Free Press this week that they had not found a single person in the state who had successfully enrolled in the new health insurance options under the law. Similar stories can be found in states across the country.
“What started as a fire hose of interest, resulted in only a small trickle of actual healthcare enrollments,” concluded the non-partisan Millward Brown Digital, a market research firm, referring to the first week of the healthcare program’s launch.
Obama has said that the website has had “more glitches than I think are acceptable,” and his administration is working around the clock to fix them. And the administration frequently notes that Americans have until next March to sign for the new insurance options and that thousands of people already have.
But the non-functioning website is a major problem. The administration wants to have 7 million people enroll in the health care exchanges over the next year. Many of those people will be Americans who already have some kind of illness or chronic condition, have been unable to get health insurance in the past and will keep logging on until they can purchase something. But for the law to work, millions of relatively healthy people will also need to enroll, and it’s not clear if they want to spend two weeks trying to use a website that so far has been very difficult to navigate.