President’s Hometown Paper Calls for Mandate Delay as White House Pivots to PR Blitz

December 3, 2013

Even Those Who Have Succeeded on HealthCare.gov Now Uncertain If They Actually Have Insurance   

As the calls for delaying the individual mandate grow louder, the White House is shifting priorities from the struggling HealthCare.gov website to a national, coordinated public relations campaign. According to a recent AP report, “Seeking to move past its website woes, the Obama administration is launching a two-pronged health care strategy this month aimed at avoiding enrollment snafus come January while also trying to refocus the public’s attention on the broader benefits of the sweeping law.” The only challenge is that reality simply does not match up.

“Millions of Americans have had their existing plans cancelled, millions more are worried about their health care coverage and costs, and the exchanges are still not functioning properly or even fully built. The president’s plan? Another speech and another website. Words alone will not fix this. The law is still not ready for primetime and millions are being left in the lurch,” said Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). 

Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel argues the administration should delay the individual mandate until the system works “seamlessly, and it still seems to be a long way from seamless.”  The editorial page explains, “Insurers offering plans on the federal exchange say they have been flooded with calls from customers who thought they had signed up for a health plan only to learn that the companies have no record of their policies. Personal information has been relayed to insurers inaccurately or incompletely. Companies don’t always know how much of a customer’s premium will be subsidized by the government. Insurers are still receiving duplicate copies of information.”

The Chicago Tribune agreed, adding, “The next three weeks are crucial. There will be a mad scramble to keep fixing a massively complex computer system while processing millions of sensitive personal documents. That’s not just about covering the uninsured. Millions of people who had individual coverage but lost it because of Obamacare need coverage starting Jan. 1. Many of them are still in limbo, their applications lost in the giant federal maze.”

Bob Sholra of Alpharetta, Georgia is one American dealing with this latest “glitch” now. ABC News reports that Sholra thought he had signed up, “and received a Humana policy ID number to prove it. But two days later, his insurer has no record of the transaction, Sholra said, even though his account on the government website indicates that he has a plan.” Sholra told ABC News, “‘The White House announced that they have met their goal,’ he said of the much-touted improvements to the website. ‘They are taking applications but they aren’t going anywhere. What kind of goal is that?’”

National Journal explains, “Important pieces of the Obamacare site are still glitchy, or missing altogether. And the site’s botched rollout is hardly boosting confidence in the vital components that still need to be built, including the systems for processing payments to insurers and squaring away the details of who has enrolled in which plans.” Henry Chao, the administration’s point person on building the marketplace, testified at the Energy and Commerce Committee that 30 to 40 percent of the exchanges have yet to be built, and reports indicate that even those that have been are still not functioning properly. As the White House pivots to public relations, uncertainty continues to grow as January 1 inches closer.

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