Sally C. Pipes: The ominous Obamacare exchange rollout
Even the parts of the exchanges that work are confusing. For instance, here’s the prompt that pops up when visitors try to set a username: “The username is case sensitive. Choose a username that is 6-74 characters long and must contain a lowercase or capital letter, a number, or one of these symbols _.@/-.”
The collective experience of exchange users is best summarized by Michael Hoffman, a Florida man who unsuccessfully attempted to enroll over half a dozen times. “I was pretty frustrated,” Hoffman said. “It’s disappointing when you have higher expectations.”
Only a tiny slice of visitors is actually enrolling in health plans. According to one industry rep, “Very, very few people that we’re aware of have enrolled in the federal exchange. We are talking single digits.”
But that’s a misleading analogy. Employees at private companies are usually held to account when they screw up. Scott Forstall, the lead designer of the Maps app, eventually got axed by Apple.
The problems with the exchanges don’t stop at basic programming incompetence. They’re also vulnerable to fraud and abuse. “The root problem is that the health insurance exchange isn’t made up of a single, authoritative site where people can go and register for coverage,” explains Christopher Budd of Trend Micro, an internet security firm.
The exchange rollout has gone worse than even Obamacare’s fiercest critics could have predicted. Patients are going to be very upset once they discover that many of the new plans will not cover the same number of doctors and hospital networks as pre-Obamacare policies did.
Sally C. Pipes is president, CEO and Taube Fellow in Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book is “The Cure for Obamacare (Encounter 2013).”
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