Sunday, April 20, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Obama says 1 million signed up for health care

WASHINGTON — His health care plan facing a dicey transition, President Barack Obama said Friday that insurance sign-ups are surging now that the government’s website is working better for consumers. But it was too soon to say the rollout has turned the corner.

More than 1 million people have enrolled since Oct. 1, Obama said at his end-of-the-year press conference. That’s more than two-and-a-half times the number on Nov. 30, when major fixes to the website were completed. At that point, only 365,000 had signed up through new federal and state markets offering subsidized private insurance.

“That is a big deal,” Obama said of getting coverage for uninsured people. “That’s why I ran for this office.”

Separately, officials said 3.9 million people have qualified for government health care through the law’s Medicaid expansion. Even so, things aren’t exactly humming along.

HealthCare.gov was down for part of the day Friday, as technicians attempted to fix an error that occurred Thursday night when the site was undergoing routine maintenance, officials explained.

The administration cannot afford for the balky website to crash this weekend. Because of Monday’s deadline to sign up so coverage can take effect Jan. 1, unusually heavy traffic is expected on the federal site and those run by states.

Largely hidden from consumers, another set of technical problems is frustrating insurers, who say the government continues to send them inaccurate data on some enrolled individuals. Insurers call some of those jumbled enrollment files “orphans” and others “ghosts.”

They could turn into gremlins after Jan. 1 for some patients trying to use their new coverage. Consumers might show up at the pharmacy counter or doctor’s office only to be told they’re not in the system.

That’s not the only potential issue. Administration officials are scrambling to prevent breaks in coverage among more than 4 million people whose individual policies were cancelled this fall because they did not meet the law’s requirements. An estimated 500,000 have yet to secure new coverage. On Thursday, the administration said those individuals would not be penalized for remaining uninsured, and that they could also have access to special bare-bones catastrophic insurance plans.

The president minimized the significance of that accommodation Friday, calling it a net to catch a small number of people who may slip through the cracks.

Still tinkering with the website, the administration now faces crucial deadlines within a two-week stretch.

The last day to sign up for coverage to take effect with the new year is Monday. And Jan. 1 is the day the people can start using their new policies. Starting then, the law forbids insurers from turning away people with pre-existing medical conditions. The law’s mandate that virtually all Americans carry coverage also goes into place, although uninsured people can avoid a tax penalty if they pick a plan by Mar. 31.

The stakes are much higher now than Oct. 1, when HealthCare.gov went live. It’s not just that the president’s political reputation has been tarnished by website woes and insurance cancellations.

The risk now is that ordinary people with pressing medical needs will suffer harm if the transition to coverage is fumbled. If that happens, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius will face a new round of demands for her resignation.

“Implementing the website is the relatively easy part,” said Mark McClellan, who oversaw the problematic rollout of the Medicare prescription drug benefit for President George W. Bush. “Implementing the coverage itself involves a lot more things that could go wrong, and there’s a lot more at stake.

“It was possible for people to wait a month or two to use the website,” McClellan added. “People who need care on Jan. 1 are not going to be able to wait a month or two to get it.” McClellan is now a health policy expert with the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.

Obama was feeling optimistic Friday. In first three weeks of December, more than 500,000 people signed up through the federal website, he noted. On Oct. 1, only a handful managed to enroll successfully.

Crossing the 1 million mark was a milestone, but the administration’s own estimates called for 3.3 million to enroll by Dec. 31. The target now is 7 million by the end of open enrollment on Mar. 31.

In Florida on Friday, Lisa Hulsey wasn’t feeling very confident. She had waited nearly an hour to sign up forhealth insurance with a counselor because the website was down. The couple before Hulsey zipped through in less than an hour and chose a midrange silver plan.

Hulsey, a paralegal, had employer insurance at no cost to her. But her company is no longer offering coverage, instead pushing employees into the federal marketplace where they may qualify for subsidies.

“I’m hungry. I’m frustrated. It should work,” said Hulsey. She was leaving this weekend to visit her family in Alabama and did not know when she would have time to try again before Monday’s deadline.

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 10 comments

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  • PatriotDecember 21, 2013 - 4:54 am

    I would not believe anything that comes out of his mouth. Too many lies, no integrity.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895December 21, 2013 - 5:08 am

    Yes, it's getting down to that fallback for you. What will it take for you to see the truth?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895 https://www.coveredca.com/news/December 21, 2013 - 5:22 am

    The president was talking about enrollments through the federal web site. Enrollments are also surging for Covered California, our state exchange's web site. According to their press release last week: "...preliminary data indicates that in just the past three days (Dec 16-18), 53,510 people enrolled by selecting a Covered California health insurance plan. That tops the 30,830 enrollments completed for the entire month of October by nearly 60 percent." The December surge was completely predictable, giving the lie to those who expected the ACA to be an abject failure based on the October figures.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PornacDecember 21, 2013 - 8:47 am

    As populations continue to grow, socialism is the only way for the masses to stay out of the sewer.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithDecember 21, 2013 - 7:18 pm

    Good thing Obama doesn't have to live with his failed and failing ACA (aka Obamacare--"the law of the land") as passed by congress. For at least a year now, when things get a little embarrassing, he just unilaterally decrees a major change in the law in order to get by somehow until the next snafu bobs to the surface (e.g., catastrophic coverage now available after the fact to those who can't navigate the troubled waters of his legacy legislation in time). Comically disgusting. The modern day "American Tragedy." Thanks, and Merry Christmas, Democrats and other Obama protectors/apologists!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • ?December 21, 2013 - 8:28 pm

    An American Tragedy (1925) is a novel by the American writer Theodore Dreiser...........Having unsuccessfully attempted to procure a pregnancy termination for Roberta, Clyde procrastinates while his relationship with Sondra matures. When he realizes that he has a genuine chance to marry Sondra, and after Roberta threatens to reveal their relationship unless he marries her, Clyde devises a plan to murder Roberta in an ostensible boating accident, having seen a news report of such a case............... Clyde takes Roberta on a row boat on Big Bittern Lake in upstate New York and rows to a remote area. As he speaks to her regarding the end of their relationship, Roberta moves towards him, and he strikes her in the face with his camera, stunning her and capsizing the boat. Roberta, unable to swim, drowns while Clyde, unwilling to save her, swims to shore.....................Mr. Smith....Why does you stuff sound so canned....like a prewritten talking point?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • rlw895December 21, 2013 - 8:38 pm

    Mr.S: That's one way to look at it, but you would first have to define what you mean by "failed" in this context. Is there anything you would consider proof of success? Obama's behavior is also consistent with doing his best to make the ACA work with no help from congress because of Republican intransigence. That's a more neutral and fair way to look at it.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Tonight's Community Organizer minute!December 21, 2013 - 7:47 pm

    "If you like your Health coverage plan or your Doctor you can keep it"

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Mr. SmithDecember 21, 2013 - 8:55 pm

    ? Thanks for the book review. My college literature professor would be proud of both of us--especially me, since I had not thought of reading Dreiser until this evening (after fifty-some years). Your conclusion, however, leaves me bewildered. Canned talking point? Really?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Too Good To Be TrueDecember 21, 2013 - 9:16 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PrNHkf6164

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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