The Oct. 1 start-up of enrollment for the Affordable Care Act was a virtual disaster with its widespread computer glitches, confusion and a lack of one-to-one personal help.
It’s a lot like those public meetings at which a large audience is eager to hear the speakers when all at once the microphone system does not work, and nobody can hear a thing until they fix the system. Very frustrating, to say the least, especially in our high-tech age. These techno-glitches happen more often than not at such meetings.
As all ACA supporters have long said, there are bound to be glitches in the program, but the rocky debut was inexcusable.
All the same, there is a bright side. There appears to have been a widespread and keen interest in the ACA by the millions who are desperate to get some form of affordable health insurance. That interest, which generated so much computer “traffic,” is one reason, we’re told, for the glitches. We’re also told at this point, most of the problems have been resolved. Let us hope so.
Ideally, as many as 30 million people nationwide will be able to get insurance plans through the ACA exchange marketplaces. Here in Minnesota, through the MNsure Exchange, people will be able to choose among 140 plans offered by five companies. That’s a daunting task, to pick just the right insurance plan, from among so many. That is why, the ACA is supposed to make available “assisters” or “navigators,” as they’re called – people who can offer help in person or via the telephone to people perplexed by the process. However, at start-up time, most of those helpers were not up-to-snuff on their training and were unavailable, which gave another black eye to the program. That, too, was inexcusable.
At least 5,000 people in Minnesota have enrolled as of last week. The actual number of enrollees nationwide is supposed to be announced in November.
The hope is if and when all the glitches are cleared up and all the helpers are up to snuff and ready to go, the number of enrollees will increase exponentially. The success of the ACA will depend upon a critical mass of people enrolled, especially young people, who will expand the insurance pool, hopefully making possible a downward trend both in premiums and medical costs. That is an optimistic “IF.” But the good news is we have already heard of instances of that downward trend. The cost of ACA plans’ premiums via MNsure, for instance, are among the lowest in the nation. The other good news is some ACA plans have already gone into effect, including allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ health plans, prescription-cost relief for senior citizens and enrollment by people with pre-existing conditions.
The biggest hope, perhaps, is those who are enrolled will help others enroll. Good word-of-mouth should be a great impetus for the ACA. The insurance plans will go into effect Jan. 1. However, people will still have until the end of March to enroll.
To learn more or to enroll, go to: www.healthcare.gov.