Some get sick and tired of Oba­macare process Glitches, long waits for en­roll­ment

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

In many ways, Char­lotte Kauf­man is the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ideal cus­tomer for the online insurance mar­kets tied to the fed­eral health care law.

The New Yorker turned 26 on the eve of the por­tals’ launch Tues­day, mean­ing she no longer could stay on her par­ents’ plan un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act. But when she tried, mul­ti­ple times, to sign up to New York State of Health, a state-run mar­ket tied to Oba­macare, she was stymied by ob­vi­ous glitches that timed out her com­puter ses­sion.

De­spite her or­deal, she said she plans to try again, show­ing the type of re­silience the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is bank­ing on as it reels from na­tion­wide re­ports of long wait­ing times and glitches on web­sites that were sup­posed to be up and run­ning Oct. 1, ready to de­liver a one-stop shop for health care cov­er­age.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has said there is plenty of time to cure what ails the Oba­macare por­tals be­cause open en­roll­ment lasts un­til March 31. But pa­tience is wear­ing thin among some.

Dave Tassey, a 61-year-old fa­cil­i­ties man­ager in Ver­non, N.J., tried mul­ti­ple times to use the fed­eral web­site be­cause he has lacked health care cov­er­age for 10 years. He fig­ured he should look into the op­tions, even if he had his doubts about Oba­macare.

“And I like it less now,” he said Mon­day, not­ing that re­peated at­tempts to en­roll took him “in cir­cles.”

Mr. Tassey said he is a Repub­li­can, al­though not a party hard-liner — he wants politi­cians to do what they promised to do when they ran for of­fice.

He lives just 50 miles from Ms. Kauf­man, but New Jersey opted to let the fed­eral gov­ern­ment run its ex­change and will send its res­i­dents to the fed­eral Health­Care.gov web­site that is han­dling en­roll­ment among res­i­dents of the more than 30 states that de­clined to cre­ate their own ex­changes.

“I’m bor­der­line fed up,” Mr. Tassey said. “I will try again.”

The White House has down­played per­sis­tent prob­lems on Health­Care.gov as a symp­tom of in­tense in­ter­est in the pres­i­dent’s health care re­forms. Some tweaks to ca­pac­ity por­tend smoother sail­ing ahead, they said.

“It’s bet­ter to­day than it was yes­ter­day and will keep get­ting bet­ter,” Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Kath­leen Se­be­lius said late Mon­day on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart.

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion has taken down the site in spurts for main­te­nance, and an­a­lysts have said cod­ing is­sues pre­vent the site from han­dling a bevy of users who want to reg­is­ter and en­roll.

Hit from all sides

Re­views of the online mar­kets’ wob­bly roll­out have ranged from bru­tal to silly to de­mand­ing.

In a scathing ed­i­to­rial, USA To­day said the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s claim that Web traf­fic is to blame for the prob­lems is akin to say­ing “that ex­cept for the tor­ren­tial rain, it’s a re­ally nice day.”

Rep. Steve Stock­man, Texas Repub­li­can, said Tues­day he will in­vite to the State of the Union ad­dress a 21-year-old Ge­or­gia man who be­came an in­stant celebrity for claim­ing to have suc­cess­fully nav­i­gated the buggy fed­eral web­site — only to ex­plain later that he had not en­rolled in a plan.

Other House Repub­li­cans de­manded en­roll­ment fig­ures from Mrs. Se­be­lius.

“For the last 3½ years, the ad­min­is­tra­tion re­peat­edly promised that ev­ery­thing was ‘on track’ for en­roll­ment, but wide­spread re­ports of web­site fail­ures and the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lack of trans­parency sug­gest oth­er­wise,” said House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Fred Up­ton, Michi­gan Repub­li­can. “Al­though the ad­min­is­tra­tion was quick to boast how many peo­ple vis­ited their web­site the first week, they have been silent on the most im­por­tant num­bers of all, en­roll­ment.”

A mixed out­look

Ms. Kauf­man, a doc­u­men­tary film­maker who had cov­er­age un­til sev­eral months ago from a job she held abroad, said she has mul­ti­ple young-adult friends who are not tak­ing steps to gain insurance.

She re­fuses to es­pouse that at­ti­tude and is get­ting by with an ex­pen­sive, stop­gap form of cov­er­age known as CO­BRA.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is hop­ing that younger peo­ple sign up for health care cov­er­age through the pres­i­dent’s re­forms, as­sum­ing the mar­kets be­come fully func­tional. Healthy cus­tomers would bal­ance out the ex­pected en­roll­ments of greater num­bers of older and sicker con­sumers with pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tions who no longer can be de­nied cov­er­age un­der the law.

Repub­li­cans say the ad­min­is­tra­tion is ask­ing young peo­ple to sub­si­dize other peo­ple’s health care, but sup­port­ers of the law ar­gue that tax­pay­ers al­ready pick up the tab for unin­sured Amer­i­cans who use the emer­gency room as their go-to doc­tor’s of­fice.

Ms. Kauf­man said she prob­a­bly will opt for a sil­ver-level plan that costs $250 to $300 per month, al­though she is not sure what kind of in­come-based sub­sidy she might get be­cause she hasn’t been able to make it through the web­site’s step-by-step en­roll­ment pages.

She thinks she will be able to get through the process even­tu­ally, but she said some­one who al­ready is skep­ti­cal of the law or has dire med­i­cal needs might not have a rosy out­look.

“It wasn’t the end of the world to me,” she said. “But I can imag­ine for some­one in a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion, that could be su­per­frus­trat­ing and re­ally scary.”

Mr. Tassey isn’t bullish about Oba­macare’s fu­ture.

“I think it’s go­ing to come apart at the seams,” he said. “They en­acted it too fast. They didn’t check it out first to make sure it worked.”

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