Obamacare’s Struggles Continue Across the Country

January 21, 2014

With or Without Enrollment Figures as a Measure for Success, Health Law Continues to Fall Short  

Despite repeated attempts to move the goalposts away from using enrollment figures as a measure of the health care law’s success or failure, the Obama administration has plenty of reasons to be concerned. The Wall Street Journal recently reported, “Early signals suggest the majority of the 2.2 million people who sought to enroll in private insurance through new marketplaces through Dec. 18 were previously covered elsewhere, raising questions about how swiftly this part of the health overhaul will be able to make a significant dent in the number of uninsured.” In fact, more people who have purchased a plan through the exchanges were subject to President Obama’s broken promise than were previously uninsured. “Only 11% of consumers who bought new coverage under the law were previously uninsured, according to a McKinsey & Co. survey of consumers thought to be eligible for the health law marketplaces. ... Health Markets Inc., an insurance agency that enrolled around 7,500 people in exchange plans, said 65% of its enrollees had prior coverage. … Fifteen percent had previously individual plans canceled...

In addition to the unsettling numbers, folks across the country have faced challenges and chaos since the law took effect on January 1. Raleigh, North Carolina’s, News and Observer reports, “Missing policies, lost policies, multiple policies and general confusion are plaguing legions of North Carolina residents who had rushed to sign up for health insurance by a Christmas Eve deadline.” The mess created by this law has left many people in limbo as insurance companies struggle to deal with the aftermath of the law’s disastrous rollout.

Those struggling with Maryland’s exchange failures were offered little help as a wrong telephone number sent people in search of a state help line to Seattle Pottery Supply instead. The Baltimore Sun reports, “The website mistakenly listed a 1-800 number that sent some Marylanders attempting to pick a health insurance provider to Seattle Pottery Supply instead of Maryland’s call center.” What’s even more concerning, “Maryland officials were unaware of the problem until contacted Friday by The Baltimore Sun.” Adding insult to injury, The Washington Post adds, “As many as 383 Medicaid enrollees in Maryland received welcome packets in the mail this month that continued the names and birth dates of strangers, health officials announced Sunday evening.”

Meanwhile, Oregon still does not have a working website and The Oregonian reveals that concerns about the state’s marketplaces were voiced last may, “But repeated warnings to high-level state officials fell on deaf ears.” 

In New Hampshire, the law’s consequences are leading to another broken promise: lost access to doctors and forcing patients to travel significant distances in search of care. The Boston Globe reports, “When Nancy Petro needs routine tests to make sure her thyroid cancer and high blood pressure have not returned, the retired gas station attendant and general store clerk must now drive an hour over mountainous roads to seek care, even though there is a hospital just minutes from her home in rural northern New Hampshire. … ‘Obamacare was sold to Americans with the president saying you don’t have to change your doctor. But in New Hampshire, with the way that the insurance company and the state has allowed it to roll out, that’s simply not true,’ said Peter Wright, chief executive of Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, a Sullivan County hospital excluded from the network.”

While the administration is focused on moving the goalposts away from using enrollment figures as a measure for success, Americans from coast to coast are struggling as the law continues to fall short.

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