Monday the President said that there was no “sugarcoating it.” The ACA rollout is riddled with problems , and live from the Rose Garden, Mr. Obama defended the ACA and pledged a major effort to fix the site.
The centerpiece for Health Care Reform was to be a web site called healthcare.gov. Everyone was going to go on the site, enter some information about themselves and their health insurance needs, and be taken to a place where they could enroll. However, there are other ways for individuals to sign up, to get covered.
Consumers also can go to health centers and hospitals and get help signing up. If anyone needs to find local resources they should visit LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov for further information.
We also need to provide information to consumers about alternative ways to enroll. There is in person assistance available by phone: 1-800-318-2596. This phone line is supposed to be able to assist people in 150 different languages so it might be just to place for those who struggle with English to go anyway.
As just about everyone in the country knows by now, the site is a mess – people are kicked off and there are delays and inaccuracies. What was supposed to be simple turned into a nightmare.Using these other means to enroll will keep the rollout moving.
We can all hope that this effort works. So far, apparently some 20,000,000 have visited the website. Only around 500,000 have actually enrolled in anything.
The ACA needs a whole lot of customers and starting off by chasing them away or discouraging them may depress the numbers. Those who have been involved in assisting people to enroll and as navigators may have to go back over some ground, although the President did pledge that the system would re-contact people who have visited the site to help them apply if they want to do so.
Having said all that, we will have to continue to worry that one part of the site may be difficult to fix and this might have a disproportionate impact on low-income, people of color communities. This is the part of the system that will be used to verify income.
Remember, most of those who are under 400% of the poverty level are eligible either for subsidies or for coverage under Medicaid. The income information consumers put into the system is supposed to be compared to IRS and Social Security records for verification that it is not being lowballed in order to qualify for help. A part of the mess at healthcare.gov is the accuracy of this verification system.
There are some observers who believe that this system is going to be difficult to fix. Anyone wishing to explore this issue further can visit “Stringent Income Verification Requirements for Obamacare Could Easily Undermine ACA Rollout” at: www.dailykos.com for Mon Oct 14, 2013.
Somehow these kinds of systems always seem to present bigger challenges for the needy and for people of color communities, the very people who need help the most. Advocates need to keep a wary eye on the technological fixes to make sure that there is fair verification and that everyone gets the health coverage they merit and that can best serve their needs.