As we all know, on October 1st, Obamacare (officially known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) was released, despite GOP efforts to postpone its implementation.
While the administration has lauded the fact that 700,000 people have already signed up, problems with the government-run website, HealthCare.gov, plus larger questions by the American public on cost and coverage specifics have proven challenging for everyone involved in ensuring the success of Obamacare.
In order to keep you up-to-date on relevant details related to using the Healthcare.gov website and to help you make the most informed decisions, we wanted to summarize the key facts we’ve noticed over the past few weeks.
Problems With Healthcare.gov
President Obama publicly admitted to website failures, stating bluntly, “the site isn't working the way it's supposed to yet.”
Many people have trouble signing-in to an account, which is required to calculate the rates of monthly premiums. These problems are the result of untested and unstable code produced by the contractor CGI Federal, which was profiled in a story by the Washington Post.
In the meantime, Obama suggested calling the government helpline at 1-800-318-2596 to aid in processing these applications. However, as Politico noted, helpline agents, officially referred to as navigators, are often unable to fix Healthcare.gov glitches.
In recent press conferences, the President attempted to assure the public that, for most, the technical glitches should be fixed by the end of November. Media Matters has explained the costs of these repairs will not exceed $1 billion, contradicting recent Fox News reports.
Questions Over States’ Rights
Some states are actively supporting their own online systems, including Covered California and NY State of Health. But a number of other states do not have their own exchanges set up yet. Some are even going so far as to sue the government for a tax credit component of the healthcare law. Though these appeals are pending, 36 states could be impacted by these results.
Some states, including Arkansas and Texas, are actively trying to limit the power of the aforementioned navigators to implement Obamacare, according to a recent report by Nonprofit Quarterly. Limited power of these navigators might discourage individuals from asking questions regarding potential coverage. This could be especially damaging to rural communities with higher rates of uninsured individuals, as the RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis detailed in a June 2013 study.
A larger battle already looms over expanding Medicaid programs at the state level. Only 29 states are presently expanding Medicaid with 15 states decidedly against expansion as of October 22nd. Ohio is one of the few GOP-dominated states serving as an exception to this rule. As the New York Times explained, Republican governor John Kasich defied his party to accept $2.5 billion in funds from the federal government.
The Obamacare Sign-Up Deadline
One of the other remaining debates over Obamacare has been the question of when individuals must sign up to avoid being charged a penalty by the government. Healthcare.gov outlines this penalty in detail and provides information on individuals who might be exempt from a penalty.
Some interpreted the law as delineating a February 15, 2013 deadline, with healthcare coverage going into effect April 1, 2013. However, the White House explains that all individuals must sign-up by March 31, 2013 in order to avoid any penalties, even though the policy will go into effect after April 1, 2013.
Why Obamacare Matters
Finally, there are those questioning whether or not the healthcare plan will actually provide benefits to consumers. The Century Foundation defined six major ways health insurance costs will be lowered as a result of this legislation.
Looking for additional Obamacare resources? The American Hospital Association, which supports over 5,600 different organizations that provide healthcare throughout the United States, has a detailed resource guide exploring Obamacare specifics. Included is a listing of credits to will help lower individual premiums based on income and household size.
Though considerable challenges remain to help perfect Obamacare, it is important to remember that, though there have been some initial setbacks, the benefit of providing strong, low-cost health insurance coverage to millions of Americans cannot be diminished.