In mid-December I was able to make a not-too-rough calculation of what my net income was in 2013, and with that information I got on the New York health insurance exchange website to see what I could get. Granted, the site was getting slammed by then, but beside being slow it was also confusing and badly thought out, I believe.
At one point I had absolutely no idea how to proceed and had to call the help phone number, which turned into its own adventure. At one point I was on hold for 45 minutes, then a real person answered. But she couldn’t hear me and hung up.
I left a message for New York to call me back. The next day I got a call back with a recorded message to stay on the line for the next available representative. Then the call disconnected.
When I finally did get to the page showing my options, I learned I was eligible for a decent subsidy, and with that there are a couple of plans that have considerably lower premiums than what I am paying now. But the website gave me few details, and when I tried to find my doctor in the companies’ networks I got zero.
I have a decent insurance policy that is inexpensive by New York standards, but it’s still a challenge to pay for it. But I decided to pay the old premium one more time so that I’m covered for January and try to make a decision when I have more information. I have since determined that my doctor is indeed in the network of at least one of the companies, so this may be a good deal for me. The new policy would have a higher deductible than my old one, and I have to work out if the difference in premiums would still be a good deal if I have to pay all the deductible, and I haven’t gotten to that yet. But I have hope.
I bring this up because I think there must be a huge backlog of people who are either still stymied by the system or who haven’t even tried because they’ve heard it doesn’t work. I’m pretty comfortable with the Web, you know, so if I had trouble navigating the New York website there must have been a lot of people who were completely defeated. A shame.
Jonathan Cohn writes that the rate of enrollment has picked up dramatically, but it’s still short of Obama Administration projections. “While lower-than-predicted enrollment could be a sign consumers don’t like the new policies, they could also represent the lingering effects of the site’s technical problems,” he says.
I’m betting it’s more the latter than the former, although it’s possible a lot of people thought they were going to get free insurance and were unpleasantly surprised when they learned they had to pay something. (Support single payer!)
And we know now that 5 million people have fallen into the “wingnut hole” — they are eligible for Medicaid but can’t get it because they live in wingnut states.
There is speculation whether someday, before the Apocalypse, Republicans will accept that Obamacare is here to stay and perhaps be willing to negotiate to make it more to their liking. I agree with Kevin Drum —
Medicaid is more than half a century old, and Republicans still aren’t willing to cut deals that might strengthen it in return for some conservative policy advances. In fact, they’re still dead set on block granting Medicaid as a way of slowly starving it to death.
Obamacare could be different if it becomes widely used by the middle class, not just the poor. Republicans would have a hard time resisting middle-class demands to improve the program. But that’s what it will take. And I’d guess that 2017 is about the earliest likely date for Republicans to give up their dream of total repeal.
The thing is, though, Republicans aren’t interested in a law that works better. Ultimately they don’t care if it works or doesn’t work. It’s a government program that helps the less fortunate. That’s all they need to know to be against it.