While last-minute holiday shoppers join the herds that inundate malls at this time, many are also jumping online to make the deadline for getting health insurance. But the arduous beginning to the online marketplace as well as ensuing changes and delays has made the experience of purchasing health insurance as straightforward as buying a present for a distant relative you hardly know.
“Going into this, knowing things weren’t going to go swimmingly, we did a lot of scenario planning so the health plans could build out contingency plans,” Paul Lambdin, of Deloitte Consulting, which advises insurers, told Kaiser Health News. “And thank goodness we did. But no one thought up the scenario we’re living in.”
President Obama acknowledged this at his last press conference of the year: “[T]here's no doubt that when it came to the health care rollout, even though I was … emphasizing how important it was that consumers had a good experience … in getting the information they need, and knowing what the choices and options were for them to be able to get high-quality, affordable health care, the fact is it didn't happen … the first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable. And since I'm in charge, obviously we screwed it up.”
But the president still noted that at least one million Americans chose a new health insurance plan via federal and state marketplaces. “So, all told,” he said, “millions of Americans, despite the problems with the website, are now poised to be covered by quality, affordable health insurance come New Year’s Day.” According to a September Health and Human Services Department (HHS) memo, 3.3 million people were actually expected to have signed up by the end of December.
Perhaps to make up for time lost from the sluggish launch and people waiting to see how things would unfold, the Dec. 23 deadline to obtain coverage in January has created a last minute scramble in states that are in charge of their own exchanges, such as California, Kentucky, and New York, the New York Times reported.
But this scramble might be too little, too late when it comes to getting enough young adults to sign up to neutralize some of the costs that stem from older and sicker patients. Kaiser Health News reports that a big push to get healthy adults aged 18 to mid-30s is underway, which has involved the president urging radio hosts and bartenders to get the word out about Obamacare while Michelle Obama reminded families to talk about health care reform over Thanksgiving.
But the publicity campaign faces a daunting attitude that many seem to share about health care reform. According to a poll by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, a majority of young people disapprove of the new health care law with less than one third of uninsured millenails under 30 planning to enroll.