The ongoing wreck that is the Obamacare federal exchange frankly keeps drawing my eye. It’s actually interesting that it does: I mean, I knew that it was going to be bad, and I even knew that it could get this bad – but it’s been staying this bad for longer than I’d have expected. Heaven knows why (we haven’t even seen yet the really awful parts*), but the administration has decided to ride this pony for a while.
Megan McArdle, in between bouts of horrified fascination** at all of this, takes the time to look at four of the current myths about the Obamacare exchanges (she politely didn’t mention that those were all delusions held by boosters of Obamacare). This one is a doozy, and the only one I hadn’t heard yet:
If the exchanges don’t work, as a last resort, we can always get people signed up through call centers. It’s true, there are call centers. But the computer systems at the call centers for states running the insurance exchanges are the same as the computer systems that consumers are having such a hard time with. A nice woman at a federal call center told me that (at least for the state of Florida, where my in-laws live) there is an alternate procedure: They can fill out a manual application in PDF format. But she also told me that it takes three weeks for that application to be mailed to your house. After you receive it, you check the application to ensure it’s accurate, and then mail it in. One to two weeks later, you will be notified of your subsidy eligibility. Then you can actually enroll in a plan, though she wasn’t quite clear on how that part would work — do you call back again?
…What difference would it make, at that point? And no, I’m not channeling my inner Hillary Clinton with that. The time frame there translates to a month and a half from the point where someone applies to the point where he or she can start shopping for a new plan. Assuming everything works on the first try. That means that, at this moment, somebody who is going to lose his or her insurance starting 01/01/2014 who is trying this option for the first time will not be able to avoid a gap in his or her healthcare coverage. Because the application process is not automatic, either. It normally takes about two weeks or so to process an application: who here thinks that the lag time is going to get any shorter under the new rules?
Seriously, people would be better off just waiting until the site doesn’t crash every thirty seconds and embracing the pain in a convenient online format. They’ll still not have coverage, but at least this way they’ll avoid several sleepless nights wondering whether their insurance applications will be processed in time***…
PS: The Post Office? That was the alternate deployment option? REALLY? What is this, the 19th Century?
*And won’t, until people can actually compare the insurance that they had with the insurance that they’re going to get.
**The only reason my fascination isn’t gleeful is because I know that Barack Obama is hurting real people, here. Real people by both my (you know, people) and his (Obama voters) standards.
***Spoiler warning: they won’t.