Despite optimistic sound bites from the White House about improvements to HealthCare.gov, the President’s health reform remains dysfunctional. The website now boasts that it can handle 50,000 users at a time. But HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius warns that there will still be delays and urges people to try in off-peak hours. That is an improvement over the complete failure of HealthCare.gov in October—but if amazon.com had that level of performance, it would not stay in business for long.
Even with a better-functioning website, the government is having trouble enrolling people in health plans. An anonymous source claims that 29,000 people selected a plan through the website on December 1 and 2. That does not mean they actually completed their application or paid their first month’s premium. HHS still cannot accurately transmit applicant information to insurers, including state Medicaid programs.
This is a far more serious problem than it may seem. Five million people have had their current coverage cancelled because it did not satisfy ACA requirements. They are facing higher premiums and tighter provider networks, and they want to know what the government is offering just as much as the uninsured. During the week before Christmas, millions of people will try to purchase coverage through a web site that falls far short of private sector standards.
The result will be human calamity with political consequences. Parents bringing their sick children into the doctor in January are liable to find that there is no record that they are covered by the insurance they think they have. People with chronic conditions going in for a long-delayed checkup may be handed a bill that was supposed to be covered by insurance. These stories will play out in every community across the country, permanently undermining public belief in big government solutions.