Americans were promised the glitches that've plagued Healthcare.gov would be mostly fixed by Nov. 30. Now even that's looking iffy. The Obama administration announced Wednesday that small businesses cannot enroll on the federal healthcare exchange website until at least November 2014. The White House says Healthcare.gov is still fragile, and is now encouraging people to not crowd the website all at once for fear of causing a huge crash. (Maybe they are hoping you all will be too full from Thanksgiving leftovers to pay much attention to your health care — or lack thereof.)
The administration has even halted a big December marketing campaign because it doesn't want too many people overwhelming the site. Instead, the focus is now shifting to helping people finish existing applications and assist those who received cancellation notices from previous insurance providers. How reassuring.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus says he wants the entire Obamacare system to be trashed. "With each passing day, it's clear how much worse ObamaCare is than a website full of glitches," he said.
But small businesses will still be able to sign up for the Small Business Health Options Program by using paper applications and directly through an insurer. Even though some Obamacare opponents were quick to call out the president for not caring about small businesses, the Main Street Alliance organizations views the ability to deal directly with insurers as a positive attribute. And businesses with state-based healthcare exchange websites will not be affected.
The federal website should be able to handle about 50,000 users at a time, officials say. But many are apprehensive about numbers well exceeding that mark this weekend, due to stifled demand and general curiosity. About 4.7 million people tried to access Healthcare.gov on its first day, Oct. 1 — and we all saw how that turned out. Not well.
“The system will not work perfectly,” says Jeffrey D. Zients, who took over the website's repair. Zients admitted there will be times when the site goes over the 50,000-user mark. If visitors to the site encounter slow operations, they can be put into a "waiting room" to receive an email notification of when the site speeds up (at 2 a.m. maybe?).
Even though it may seem as if absolutely no one is signing onto Healthcare.gov, Julie Bataille of the Office of Communications for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says this is not the case. "The website is working already," she said. "Consumers every day are shopping and enrolling in coverage."
Meanwhile, the government is even setting up alternate routes for people to find health insurance. In Ohio, Florida, and Texas, a pilot program from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will let people go directly to insurance companies instead of just relying on the federal healthcare exchange site. People can also visit GoHealthInsurance.com, which is the first private insurer to circumvent Healthcare.gov in order to allow people to sign up for Obamacare.
Despite the continuing problems, President Obama has exuded a resolute attitude during the past few days traveling through Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles — even though some parts of the Affordable Care Act may be altered, as the Supreme Court is now taking up the law's so-called contraception mandate.
"We're going to continue to implement the healthcare law. The product is good, people want it and we should not live in a country where people are going bankrupt just because they get sick," Obama said. "And anybody who is going to keep on pushing against that, they will meet my resistance because I am willing to fix any problems that there are, but I am not going to abandon people to make sure that they have got health insurance in this country."
Either way, enjoy your turkey and stay out of trouble until at least Jan.1, when people who've enrolled by Dec. 23 can start getting health insurance coverage.
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