Amid a government shutdown and almost unprecedented opposition from Republicans in Congress, the Affordable Care Act’s health care exchanges opened enrollment Tuesday in hopes of offering quality coverage at a lower price for millions of uninsured Americans. However, with glitches, delays, and crashes on the main insurance enrollment site — HealthCare.gov — some are wondering if the Obama administration bit off more than it could chew.
“We have built a dynamic system and are prepared to make adjustments as needed and improve the consumer experience,” the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement. “This new system will allow millions of Americans to access quality, affordable health care coverage – without underwriting. Consumers who need help can also contact the call center, use the live chat function, or go to localhelp.healthcare.gov to find an in-person assistor in their community.”
According to CBS News, though it persistently promoted the Oct. 1 open enrollment date, the Administration was not prepared to have 2.8 million visitors on the first day. President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did warn that there would likely be some first-day glitches, but that should reflect issues with the technology, not the law. In fact, they say, the delays are a sign that affordable health insurance is something that many Americans have wanted for a very long time. People are at least interested in Obamacare, and that’s a good thing.
"That gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans around the country, and that's a good thing," President Obama said. "We're going to be speeding things up in the next few hours to handle all of this demand that exceeds anything that we had expected."
Supporters of the Affordable Care Act saw the delays as a minor glitch in a bigger picture. Andrew Stryker, a freelance television producer, said the long wait time was well worth it for affordable health care.
“Obviously, three hours is a long time to wait, but it will save me over $6,000,” said Stryker. “For that, I would have waited all day.”
But others see the delay as a clear sign that the administration’s health care reforms are good-intentioned, but not ready for widespread implementation.
“I would say it’s not going too well,” said Dan Schuyler, director at Leavitt Partners, a health care consulting firm. “I think it’s a combination of high volume and the technology not being ready for prime time.”
In any case, the Obama administration is standing by Obamacare’s open enrollment, and encouraging those who were unable to enroll on Tuesday to come back and give it another try sometime between now and Jan. 1 when coverage begins.
"We expected a slow ramp up and what we saw today was an overwhelming response that exceeded even what we've seen in Medicare in any given day," said David Simas, senior White House advisor. "So it was a good start. We identified problems, tomorrow is going to be better."
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