Dr. Strange Gov: Healthcare law’s success will be overshadowed by its failures
My mother in law knew nothing about the healthcare law, except that it was terrible.
She lives in rural Alabama. She doesn’t have an online presence: no email, no social media and no websites she checks regularly.
All of the news she’d heard about the healthcare law focused on the problems with Healthcare.gov.
Her insurer, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Alabama, sent her a notice saying she needed to renew her plan for about $390 a month or it would be cancelled. (She currently pays $150.) Her only other option was going through the government website. When she found out she would have to visit the Healthcare.gov website to purchase her more affordable plan, she was scared shitless.
I’m happy to report that after a few weeks of trying, my wife and I successfully helped her sign up for Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance using the Healthcare.gov website. It will much cheaper than her current plan. Her monthly payment has been lowered to $40 per month, with a lower yearly deductible, and she likes what her new plan offers.
While provisions of the law are helpful to her, the government website wasn’t helpful in processing her application. My wife and I found the site difficult to use, even though we’re computer literate.
We had problems filling out the forms with some of her basic information. The customer service was practically non existent. When my mother in law tried signing up over the phone, the person who answered said the website was down and he couldn’t enroll her.
When my mother in law told the government’s customer service rep that she was worried about the looming deadline to renew her current plan, he told her to go ahead and renew with Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
My mother in law called Blue Cross/Blue Shield and their customer service rep told her to keep trying Healthcare.gov because she’d get her new Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan at a cheaper rate. Thank God for that guy, whoever he was.
I haven’t delved into the intricacies of how precisely the government managed to f&*$ up Healthcare.gov, but I think the process for awarding the contract to develop it should be reexamined. For a more in-depth breakdown about how that process works, you should check out this Washington Post article.
This isn’t the first time a government-run website has failed at launch, but those websites weren’t dealing with something as consequential as health insurance. Health insurance is one of those fundamental things that people need, whether they know it or not.
There are millions of people out there, just like my mother in law, scared out of their minds and faced with the option of paying more to renew their current plan or venturing onto a dumpster fire of a website. When you put a deadline in front of people and tell them they have to use a website that’s barely functional, you shouldn’t be surprised when they start to panic.
President Obama said that Americans could keep their plans if they liked them, but it’s obvious he was oversimplifying the issue for political reasons. As the saying goes, in politics if you’re explaining, you’re losing. I suspect he thought people would be so overwhelmed by their cheaper plans that they’d forget about the more-expensive plans they were losing. His political strategy would’ve worked if the government had launched a functional website that any person – computer literate or not – could use.
It’s also a little strange to me that the government had to create website for this at all. Why not allow the insurance companies to process the applications and receive payments? Consumers have been caught between the gears of an insurer telling them to go to the government for help and the government being a ridiculous pain in the ass about it.
Whatever good this law will do, and I believe it’s going to be a good thing in the long term, it will be completely overshadowed in the short term by Healthcare.gov’s wobbly first steps.
I’m just glad I don’t have to worry about this crap. My own personal sense of relief reminds me of something the humorist Will Rogers once said. “Be thankful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”