Enrollment On Obamacare HIX Marketplaces Dismal
By Dr. James Palermo // November 13, 2013
DEMOCRATIC SENATOR: OBAMACARE ROLLOUT 'UNACCEPTABLE'
ABOVE VIDEO: Breaking News reports on the estimated number of Americans who were able to enroll in insurance plans on the Obamacare health insurance exchange since its launch on October 1.
Initial Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) enrollment figures leaked on Monday show far less people than expected have been able to sign up for health insurance coverage on the federal or state marketplaces.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that according to two people familiar with the numbers, as of last week, fewer than 50,000 people were able to successfully enroll in private health insurance plans through the Federal health insurance exchange (HIX) website, healthcare.gov.
In internal memos the Obama administration had projected 500,000 to have enrolled in October, and the huge shortfall has raised considerable concern among insurers who had been counting on the estimated enrollment.
Meanwhile, it was reported by Politico yesterday that although health industry consultant Robert Laszewski, “said the Journal report is consistent with the industry data he has seen,” the Obama Administration “declined to confirm the Wall Street Journal figures.”
Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said, “We cannot confirm these numbers,” and added the obvious, “as we have said, the problems with the website will cause the numbers to be lower than initially anticipated.”
INSURERS SEEKING ALTERNATIVES TO RELYING ON HEALTHCARE.GOV
A front page article in the New York Times (NYT) yesterday reported on the “frantic effort” major health insurance companies are undertaking to “try to find a way around the technological problems” with the ACA’s online marketplace, healthcare.gov.
According to the NYT article, one option would be for the government “to let them (insurers) enroll people entitled to subsidies directly rather than through the federal system.” Although the Administration has to date “resisted” this idea, Chris Jennings, a senior healthcare adviser to President Obama, said on Monday that the White House was “continuing to pursue additional avenues by which people can enroll, such as direct enrollment through insurance companies, that will help meet pent-up demand.”
Although HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius “has promised to have the website’s technical problems largely solved by the end of the month,” it is clear that patience is running a bit thin within the Administration and among congressional ACA proponents and they believe “time is running out.”
GROWING DEMOCRATIC UNREST WITH OBAMACARE
In fact, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, who faces re-election in North Carolina in 2014 and is losing support because of the Obamacare problems, has called on federal inspectors to investigate what she describes as the ‘unacceptable’ rollout of healthcare.gov.
In a letter to Gene Dodaro, comptroller general at the Government Accountability Office, and Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), she asked them “to examine what went wrong, who was at fault and how much it is costing to fix the mess.”
Senator Hagan’s letter reflects the growing unrest among Democratic lawmakers, particularly those up for reelection next year, with the calamitous rollout of Obamacare that has included the persistent failure and malfunctioning of the website and the politically disastrous cancelation of millions of insurance plans despite the President’s reassurances that, “if you like your plan you can keep it.”
Former President Bill Clinton said yesterday that President Obama should keep his promise to the American public that if those who liked their present health insurance plan could keep it under Obamacare.
“I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment that the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” said Clinton in an interview with Ozy Media founder Carlos Watson.
HOUSE TO VOTE ON BILL ENSURING AMERICANS CAN KEEP HEALTH PLANS
Stemming from President Obama’s “if you like it, you can keep it” promise, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) has proposed a bill which would allow insurance companies the option of continuing all existing health plans for a year.
The bill, which may be brought to a vote as early as Wednesday, presents a “dilemma” for Democrats, who must balance pressure from constituents, who are increasingly disgusted with the law, with maintaining party loyalty.
However, given the Administration’s inability to quickly fix problems and the impending threat of next year’s midterm elections, a sizable contingent of Democratic caucus members appear increasingly willing to back GOP attempts to change the law.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for the White House to be able to dismiss the proposed bill as a GOP stunt. As some House Democrats rally behind the “keep your plan” idea, a similar bill is being proposed in the Senate by Mary Landrieu (D-La.), and drawing support from Hagan and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), all three of whom are up for reelection in 2014.
OBAMACARE SOLUTIONS ‘REMAIN TO BE SEEN’
As always I conclude my ACA update with, “It remains to be seen,” how Obamacare will ultimately impact the economy and the health and well being of America.
Fundamentally, the ACA is supposed to insure the uninsured, improve patient care, better manage the health of the American population, and control healthcare costs.
Whether “acceptable” solutions to the many problems that afflict President Obama’s signature healthcare law will be forthcoming in the near future remains to be seen. What we can be sure of is that it will continue to play a major role in the political landscape and dominate the media agenda for years to come.