Will Obamacare start on Oct. 1, as planned? That depends on what ‘is’ is

Will Obamacare start on Oct. 1, as planned? That depends on what ‘is’ is

Obamacare train wreck“Nobody is going to say we’re not starting on October 1, but in some situations, you may see a redefinition of what ‘start’ means.” So said former HHS health exchange administrator Joel Ario, channeling Bill Clinton.

Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post reports (h/t Weasel Zippers) that the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace is scheduled to launch in 11 days, and there will be glitches.

The Wall Street Journal warns that government software “can’t reliably determine how much people need to pay for coverage.”

Is it time to freak out? Kliff asks. Well, let’s see. So far, we’ve had delays of the employer mandate and the income verification process. All of which raises two more questions:

  1. How well are the marketplaces working?
  2. How much will that matter for Obamacare?

In an attempt to answer the first question, Kliff enlists the aid of Kevin Walsh, managing director for health eligibility systems at Xerox, which is consulting with about a half-dozen states on their exchanges. His response:

They’re still making changes on the fly as they identify bugs. You test it and find out how far you can get, and hopefully get a little further the next time. It feels uncomfortable to be doing end to end testing as you get so close to going live.

If this wasn’t such a date-driven project, I think a lot of people would be having discussions about slipping the date. Instead, you slip out some of the functionality because the go live is so important.

Hence, the definitional quandary suggested by ex-administrator Ario in the opening paragraph.

As for the second question — How much will this all matter for Obamacare? — Kliff writes, “There will be no shortage of political backlash when someone tries to buy insurance on Oct. 1 and, inevitably, hits a glitch. What does that mean for the health-care law’s long-term success?”

Since the policies don’t really kick in until January, the date on which consumers buy coverage is irrelevant. However:

You could see someone who has a bad experience attempting to buy coverage the first time, who decides to forgo the process rather than return in December or January.

Needless to say, the administration could always delay the onset of this nightmare to give the experts time to work out the kinks, but it won’t. First, admitting that the law is not ready for prime time is conceding a point to the enemy, and Barack Obama already told the Congressional Black Caucus that he won’t negotiate with Republicans over the health care law. Second, if he does agree to delay the onset, he will be giving the GOP a chance to (1) regroup and (2) step up its PR campaign, which is having an impact on the psyche of the American voter.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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