Economics, Health Care

Three weeks and counting: Still can’t buy health insurance on the federal exchange

Image Credit: shutterstock

Image Credit: shutterstock

Last month, I gave Obamacare (AKA the Affordable Care Act) a gentleman’s C for the operation of the health insurance exchanges in a series of articles in The American. I never dreamt things could turn out as bad as they have.

The administration took 3 years, 55 contractors, and hundreds of millions of dollars to create a one-stop shopping experience that does not work. That is an outrage to taxpayers and an insult to the uninsured.

If you can’t solve a problem, at least you can blame someone for it. Democrats blame the Republicans for failing to give the administration enough money to do the job. Republicans have focused on HHS Secretary Sebelius as their favorite scapegoat. Both are wrong.

The problem is the policy, not the personalities. With more time and money, even the government’s website, HealthCare.gov, could be made to work well enough to allow the most determined consumers to buy health insurance. That might mean starting over, and it certainly means making different decisions about how a consumer navigates this process.

People like to window-shop before they are ready to commit to a purchase. Until this week, they could not find out anything about their insurance options unless they registered with the government site. That means giving your name, email address, and selecting security questions when you are not even sure you are interested in what’s on the other side of the electronic wall.

In contrast, Amazon and eBay make the sale first and get the personal information after the consumer is fully committed. There might be a lesson to learn here.

But those successful e-tailers also have products that consumers want, and they offer every conceivable variety in all possible price ranges since consumer tastes are diverse. That consumer-friendly orientation is not the philosophy driving the ACA. Even though the President said you can keep your existing coverage if you are happy with it, that’s not so. Tens of thousands of people who have insurance that they were willing to buy this year will not be able to buy it next year. The federal government says those policies aren’t good enough—but a more expensive policy will do just fine, thanks. And if you can break through the exchange’s security, you might be able to buy it.

2 thoughts on “Three weeks and counting: Still can’t buy health insurance on the federal exchange

  1. You identified the key problem. Private businesses have to treat customers well or they will go away and their business will fail. Government thinks of people as subjects who are supposed to do what government wants or be punished. That leads to fundamentally different results.

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