Supporters of the Affordable Care Act are waiting with bated breath to see the eventual outcome of the controversial legislation. Needless to say, opponents of the law which they derisively refer to as “Obamacare,” are seizing any and every opportunity to discredit the law due to the enormous problems it has encountered since the October 1 rollout. Glitches were expected for such a comprehensive policy initiative. Similar problems were encountered during the early days of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare Part D. However, you still have to wonder why officials in the Obama Administration were not able to anticipate some of the problems.
I like Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and believe she has done a creditable job overseeing one of the nation’s largest and most important agencies. Yet, her testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee left much to be desired if the Administration’s goal was to alleviate the anxiety many Americans are experiencing because of the burgeoning costs of the website development and the failure to enroll nearly the numbers needed to ensure success. White House official’s failure to provide an estimate of the number of people who have signed up for healthcare policies further escalated suspicions that the Administration was not being straight up with the American people.
True, there was no way for the Administration to provide an accurate number of people who were able to navigate the breakdowns in the system and successfully sign up for policies, but by refusing to respond to request for numbers, it seemed as if the Administration had something to hide. It left the door open for opponents to provide numbers. So we get stories from Fox News that only six people signed up for the Affordable Care Act on the first day. Yet there were no numbers from the Administration to counter that information which people then accepted as fact.
Another point of contention is the cost of developing the faulty Healthcare.gov website which one would expect to be in the tens of millions of dollars given the expansive goals of enrolling millions of applicants. I listened to the website contractors testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee and it seemed as if hundreds of millions were being spent on these sites where as the Sunlight Foundation estimates about 70 million has been spent initially. What we do know is that millions more will be needed to correct problems and get Healthcare.gov up and running properly.
Then there is the issue of millions of Americans having their policies cancelled because of the Affordable Care Act—again, an issue ripe for misinformation. Health insurance companies are cancelling thousands of policies for a number of reasons. Some the policies are substandard—meaning they do not offer the minimum coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. Yet, people with these policies receiving cancellation notices, are satisfied with their coverage and do not need some of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act such as maternity care. Opponents of the ACA have seized on this issue to try to discredit President Obama who said people who were satisfied with their policies would be able to keep them. Many of the people receiving cancellations will ultimately get better policies—some with lower costs because of subsidies, but it is difficult to explain that what the President meant was that people who were getting employer-sponsored healthcare would be able to keep their plans.
The biggest issue facing the Affordable Care Act is the individual mandate and whether or not young people will enroll in large numbers. With so many problems with the enrollment process, you have to believe that it would be unfair to penalize people for not enrolling. Without a significant number of healthy people enrolling, premiums would escalate for an enrollment population consisting largely of people with significant health problems or health risks.
The promise of the Affordable Care Act remains true despite all of the problems it has encountered getting off the ground. Millions more are eligible for health care under the new law and will eventually be covered. The ACA is great news for entrepreneurs who would otherwise be reluctant to launch out on new ventures if it meant giving up their health insurance. I am praying that the Administration will make all the right moves going forward, but in the meantime I am holding my breath and waiting to exhale.
Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph. D
Congressional Research Institute For Social Work and Policy
The post Waiting to Exhale: Will Obamacare Survive? appeared first on Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.
Our authors want to hear from you! Click to leave a comment