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Teething Problems for the Affordable Care Act

The already troubled relationship between Republicans and Democrats has been further strained by the launch of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) insurance enrollment websites. The teething problems presented by the unwanted baby in the union have fuelled arguments by the Republicans that the Affordable Care Act is a mistake. However with the launch of the online insurance marketplaces on October 1, 2013 – this is a fundamental stage in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act – which there can be no turning back. The healthcare reform law, popularly referred to as Obamacare has been put into motion and is officially in service. With the threat of incurring a penalty come March 1, 2014, thousands of Americans have been trying to access the insurance enrollment websites in order to comply with the new law. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), ratified by President Obama in 2010, aims to drastically transform the US healthcare system by improving accessibility of health insurance coverage to an estimated 15% of the US population who lack it. The reform recognizes the gap in healthcare coverage where individuals do not qualify for services by US health programs for the poor and the elderly, but are not covered by an employer either. The goal is to fill this void by making health insurance coverage incumbent upon employers of more than 50 full-time employees, and making coverage more affordable to individual consumers through government subsidies. A key stage in the successful rollout of the ACA was the launch of the consumer health insurance marketplaces. These websites were intended to enable Americans to do comparative searches of the available health insurance coverage that is compliant with the ACA and to assess eligibility for a government subsidy.

This rudimentary provision of the ACA was launched amidst rigorous scrutiny, and unfortunately failed to stifle the critics of the ACA. As should have been expected, the large influx of consumers to the newly established insurance enrollment website met with frustrating technical problems, dampening what should have been a huge achievement for pro-Obamacare advocates. These websites, known as interchanges, represented the biggest healthcare system overhaul in the US since 1960. The launch of the interchanges was already overshadowed by the 16 day government shutdown that ensued due to budget disagreements stemming directly from the opposition to the ACA in the first place. Mounting frustrations from consumers trying to access the website has given clout to the Republicans’ unanimous view that the ACA should not be implemented. The ‘told-you-so’ response to the technical issues faced by the interchanges has reignited tensions between the Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans calling for further extensions to the compliance deadlines.

President Obama has personally apologized for the frustrations experienced by consumers on the websites, citing his own disappointment at the inefficient launch of the service. However, President Obama is adamant that despite the problems encountered, millions of Americans will benefit from the service, defending the viability of the ACA by pointing out that the huge influx of traffic to the websites is testament to the “massive demand” for the service. He has ensured the American people that the website issues will be resolved in due course. In the meantime, a blame game has ensued. The creators of the website attribute the problems to high traffic volumes combined with the late decision to require consumers to create accounts even just to browse The Republicans seek to use this glitch in the ACA rollout to further undermine its application while inferring that the website flaws were indicative of the broader problems with the ACA.

Bottom Line: “Despite the positions from both sides of the aisle, the reality is, is that the Affordable Care Act has been initiated and is an inevitable certainty in the landscape of American healthcare.”

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Rebecca S. Busch, RN,
Healthcare Advocate

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