President Obama said Monday his administration is working as quickly as possible to fix technical problems that have hindered people seeking to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
New health insurance exchanges opened for business Oct. 1, but problems with the main website (www.healthcare.gov) have made browsing insurance options and enrolling in coverage plans difficult.
Theres no sugar-coating it, Obama said in prepared remarks. The website is too slow. People have been getting stuck in the application process. And I think its fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am.
The open enrollment period under the ACA runs through March 31, with insurance coverage taking effect as early as Jan. 1 for people who enroll by Dec. 15. Anyone who does not have insurance by the end of open enrollment, and who does not have an exemption, will be penalized on their 2014 tax return under the individual mandate rules.
Obama and other administration officials have not said when they expect the website to be working smoothly. The Department of Health and Human Services has pledged to utilize tech experts from inside and outside the government in an around-the-clock effort to fix the problems. The websites in the 14 states that chose to run their own exchanges have been functioning better, according to reports.
Obama noted that while online enrollment might be a struggle, people can sign up for insurance by phone (800-318-2596) or in person at locations around the country (www.localhelp.healthcare.gov for a list of locations).
How will it turn out?
Critics of the law say the glitches are emblematic of widespread problems that also will manifest themselves in higher premiums and disruptions in coverage for people who already have insurance; and potentially in lost jobs or reduced hours due to mandates for larger employers to provide coverage to full-time employees.
Obama countered by saying problems with the website should not detract from other features of the law. The ACA also bars insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, places caps on out-of-pocket costs and requires insurers to spend a certain percentage of premiums directly on consumers healthcare. It makes certain preventive services free and allows young adults to stay on their parents policies until age 26.
The product, the health insurance is good, Obama said. The prices are good. It is a good deal.
The administration plans to release preliminary enrollment numbers sometime in the middle of November. The Congressional Budget Office has projected 7 million people would become newly insured under the law during its first year. If enrollment figures fall well short of projections, premiums for those in the expanded marketplace could become untenable, various analysts have said, because of the cost of treating an insured population with a greater percentage of elderly and sick people.
Estimate insurance costs and premium eligibility: http://1.usa.gov/173qQcf
Preview insurance plans and prices: www.healthcare.gov/how-much-will-marketplace-insurance-cost
Full ACA coverage from Nurse.com: http://topics.nurse.com/aca