Friday, March 21, 2014

One train wreck after another

National Review

Morning Jolt
. . . with Jim Geraghty
March 21, 2014
Obamacare Implementation Isn't Getting Much Better as 
the Deadline Approaches
Who's up for another round of Obamacare train wrecks?
Nearly half of callers to California's health insurance exchange in February 
and March couldn't get through and abandoned their call, state figures show.
Those service woes could worsen as more people try to beat the March 31
deadline to get Obamacare coverage under the Affordable Care Act…
On the service front, [Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California]
said the exchange has been able to reduce wait times on the phone from
about 50 minutes to 30 minutes. The state has hired more call-center
workers and added phone capacity in preparation for a last-minute rush.
Still, less than 5% of calls are answered within 30 seconds and about a
third of callers get a busy signal, state data show. Overall, 40% of
exchange customers surveyed said they found the enrollment process difficult.

 By some measures Oregon has among the most dysfunctional online
insurance exchanges in the nation. Only about 50,000 people in Oregon
have signed up for a commercial insurance plan through the exchange,
well below the state's goal, according to federal estimates. And almost
all of those people enrolled using paper applications or with help from
an insurance professional because the website had been so unreliable.

With a March 31 deadline for first-year enrollment looming, the online
exchange, Cover Oregon, is still unable to process an applicant from
start to finish without help or paperwork.

Anyone who attempted to sign up for health insurance with Nevada's
failed insurance exchange will have another 60 days to complete the process.
The Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Board action on Thursday
leaves the door open for tens if not hundreds of thousands of people to
reapply after open enrollment ends March 31.
Officials say up to 300,000 people may have tried over the past six months
to choose a plan over Nevada Health Link but were thwarted by program
errors in the system designed by Xerox.
Only about 22,000 people have successfully enrolled and paid for policies
since the exchange went live Oct. 1.

A former manager at a market-research firm in Los Angeles, Rosenthal, 57,
paid for his own health insurance. Last fall, when his plan was discontinued
because it didn't meet standards set by the Affordable Care Act, Rosenthal  
bought the best insurance coverage he could find, a top-tier "platinum" policy 
from Blue Shield of California that costs $792 a month. He figured it would 
provide access to top hospitals. Then in February he learned the plan 
wouldn't cover the hospitals where he was used to being treated.
Rosenthal is one of millions of Americans who have purchased insurance
under the Affordable Care Act and are discovering that many of the new plans
offer a narrow network of doctors and facilities. "If I had anything happen, I
wouldn't want to go to a hospital that I'm not familiar with and with doctors I
don't know," he says…
In addition to having fewer options, buyers are making decisions about which plans to buy based on incomplete or misleading information, says Karen Pollitz, senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health policy research group. "Consumers have a very limited ability to shop in advance and evaluate provider networks," she says.
What would we have to see for Democrats to label Obamacare a failure? Plagues? Mad scientists? Giant radioactive lizards stomping across the landscape?

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