The new #Obamacare exchanges alternative: let’s SNAIL MAIL you the application!

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***…

Moe Lane

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.

5 thoughts on “The new #Obamacare exchanges alternative: let’s SNAIL MAIL you the application!”

  1. You make the possibly unwarranted assumption that Obama considers the ones who voted for him to be people.

    1. It’s purely by inference. We *know* he doesn’t think people like you and me are people.

      1. Off the top of my head, there are four sets of basic possibilities.
        1. He considers his opponents people, and gives them credit for having their own reasons, and having some ability to act beyond his fantasies of them. This seems inconsistent with a number of details.
        2. He doesn’t believe group one are human, but he cares for his supporters, and makes decisions in what he thinks are their best interest. Here, his foresight and judgment must necessarily be suspect.
        3. He doesn’t care about followers, except for egoboo, but he is capable of caring for some set of cronies/family.
        4. His mental state is such that he is incapable of understanding that there are other people.
        You seem to be saying that 1, being more or less disproven, makes 2 more likely.
        My position is I don’t know, and I’m not prepared to concede that he must be functioning up at 2 or above.

  2. Found it! Here’s how paper Exchange applications work. They are typed into a different portal to the infrastructure. All the backend stuff, which isn’t working well, is the same.

    Personnel reviewing paper applications need to manually type data from paper into the same Web-based marketplaces that consumers are using. Reviewers are entering through a different “portal” than one consumers use. But it’s the same online system.

    “If you don’t have a working [online] system, paper doesn’t do you any good. It’s almost worse because there’s this illusion that you’ve finished something,” he said. “When in fact, it’s just getting stacked up waiting for the system to work.”

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