Frank (name changed) is a successful attorney in his early 40’s. He lives in Greater Cleveland. On Friday he completed his health insurance application, hit the submit button, and watched the website crash. This message, in bold red and blue, flashed onto his screen:
- We apologize but there was an issue with our system when submitting your application. If we were able to process your application, we will send you an email within the next hour and you will not need to do anything else. If you do not receive an email from us within the next hour, then please return to this site and submit the application to us again.
Yes, purchasing a health insurance policy in 2013 can, at times, appear daunting. But Frank wasn’t dealing with the federal exchange. The computer issue had nothing to do with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Frank was submitting an application for a 2013 policy with Anthem Blue Cross.
Alert the media! Contact Rush! Websites crash or are shut down for routine maintenance. No one died and no one got fired.
Anthem’s producer/applicant portal was down for about six hours. Frank’s application has been accepted and by the time you read this, he may have been approved.
The exchange roll out has been a mess. Even insurance agents, professionals long familiar with the complexity of working with insurers, the government, and the public, were surprised at how unprepared the government was for this vast undertaking. We even had advance warning. Agents have had eight years of Medicare Part D (Rx) and Medicare Advantage training, seven to nine wasted hours each August. And this year we were treated to the special training classes and tests to sell on the federally run exchange as detailed in You Put Your Left Foot In. CMM (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), the agency administering the agent authorization process, is still having website issues.
This is a program designed by bureaucrats who know how to make things complicated but may have no idea how to make things work.
What has been lost in this P.R. disaster is just how irrelevant all of this has been. The most important thing to remember is that the new policies don’t start until January 1, 2014. Applications accepted on October 1st or December 10th still have the same effective date. Anthem Blue Cross is not going to run out of policies. You don’t need to be the first in line.
Of course, everyone with an ax to grind has jumped into the discussion. Online insurance marketers have “volunteered” to save the day and take over the process. If the federal government would only suspend common sense and a myriad of state and federal laws, an e-marketer could corner the market and restore order. Those offers have landed with a thud.
Equally self-serving have been the Republican members of Congress who have complained about the problems their constituents are having with the roll out. You can’t spend three and a half years actively trying to sabotage a program and then complain when it doesn’t work perfectly. And please, don’t shed tears for the sick and uninsured who are having difficulty enrolling in the now available coverage. There isn’t a Republican plan to cover any of these people.
There is a bi-partisan support to bump back the “Individual Mandate” for another year. Why force people to purchase insurance if the website is difficult to access? I’m surprised that this hasn’t already happened. Everybody wins.
- The Republicans score a moral victory. Being against anything President Obama favors enhances their campaign donations. Winning a meaningless battle shows activity.
- The Democrats show flexibility and are allowed, once again, to play the part of the martyr.
- Big business, the unions, and the insurers see this as one step closer to a Single Payer system. By now you are sick of hearing TV commentators talking about the Young Invincibles, the young, healthy Americans who must be forced into the system for it to work. If healthy people don’t sign up, the system devolves into a Death Spiral and implodes under its own weight.
Delaying, or worse, eliminating the Individual Mandate hastens the conversion to a Single Payer system.
The exchange website and all of its attendant issues aren’t our biggest challenge as a country. It is our lack of intellectual honesty that will be our undoing. Disorganized and unprepared, we are heading for a crash.