Obama pushes new, improved health website

Seeking to move past its website woes, the Obama administration is launching a two-pronged health care strategy this month aimed at avoiding enrollment snafus come January while also trying to refocus the public's attention on broader benefits of the sweeping law.
AP Wire
Dec 3, 2013

Case in point: Tuesday morning the administration released a 50-state report saying that nearly 1.5 million people were found eligible for Medicaid during October. As website problems depressed sign-ups for subsidized private coverage, that safety-net program for low-income people saw a nearly 16 percent increase in states that have agreed to expand it, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

President Barack Obama focused on such benefits at a White House event Tuesday. Flanked by Americans who the White House says have gained as a result of the overhaul, the president tried to remind Americans that his health law is preventing insurance discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions and is allowing young people to stay on their parents' coverage until age 26. He also took aim at Republicans, arguing that the GOP is trying to strip away those benefits without presenting an alternative.

Behind the scenes, the administration is furiously trying to rectify an unresolved issue with enrollment data that could become a significant headache after the first of the year. Insurers say much of the enrollment data they're receiving is practically useless, meaning some consumers might not be able to get access to benefits on Jan. 1, the date their coverage is scheduled to take effect.

On Monday, administration officials and insurance company representatives began holding daily 7 a.m. meetings to discuss the enrollment data. Officials at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services — the department overseeing the insurance exchanges — are also personally reaching out to individuals who have enrolled online to make sure their information is correct and that they are sending payments. Call center representatives are doing the same with people who enrolled over the phone.

"We are very mindful of making sure that consumers who want coverage starting in January are able to get it," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

The White House's approach comes as Obama tries to recover from the deeply flawed rollout of his signature legislation. The failures have emboldened Republicans, put Democratic lawmakers facing re-election on edge, and contributed to a drop in Obama's overall job approval rating.

Obama had set a Nov. 30 deadline for ensuring that the website was working properly for the vast majority of users. While administration officials declared over the weekend that they had met their goal, counselors helping people use the online health exchange gave the updated site mixed reviews, with some zipping through the application process while others are facing the same old sputters and even crashes.

The website troubles resulted in significantly lower enrollment than what administration officials had hoped for and it's questionable whether the program will reach the 7 million sign-ups predicted by the Congressional Budget Office. The sign-up period runs through March 31.

But officials now say they are no longer as concerned about the overall number. They say the insurance exchanges will succeed regardless of the total, as long as about one-third of those who sign up are healthy in order to offset the cost of those with more expensive health problems.

"Our goal is to make sure that everybody who wants to enroll through the exchanges is able to do so during the open enrollment period," Carney said. "We believe those numbers will be sufficient and that the pool of people who enroll will be of the necessary diversity to make sure that the ACA works as envisioned."

The White House says it is buoyed by high traffic flocking to the website. As of Monday at noon, the site had about 375,000 visitors. However, officials would not say how many of those had actually enrolled in the insurance policies.

Medicaid signups are proceeding on a separate track. While subsidized private coverage is available to middle-class people in all 50 states, the expanded version of Medicaid currently is only provided in states that agreed to accept it. So far 25 states and Washington, DC, have done so.

Tuesday's HHS report did not tease out a separate statistic for the number of Medicaid recipients newly eligible under the law in October. Instead, the total of 1.46 million also included those who signed up and would have been eligible anyway, even without the program expansion.

Nonetheless, the impact of the law was evident. States that expanded their Medicaid programs saw a nearly 16 percent increase in Medicaid applications during October, as compared to previous averages. States that did not expand saw a smaller, 4-percent increase.

Comments

Mystic Michael

As predicted, the new heath insurance exchanges are moving forward, becoming more stable, more interactive, more user-friendly, more successful with every new day - and all this despite the constant noise and bluster coming from the Right.

The reason? Simple. The exchanges are finally beginning to fill a desperate, chronic need for quality, affordable health insurance for millions of Americans whom the previous system had ignored and abandoned.

What's equally obvious is that the Republican Right had no answers to address the crisis. Nothing. Nada. Zippo. The best they could come up with is: "Let's all go back to the good old days of denial of coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions. And lifetime benefit caps. And arbitrary cancellation of valid policies."

As the program inches ever closer to full implementation, Republican lies and slander will become even more unhinged from reality. Clearly their fear is not that the ACA will be a failure. It is that the ACA will be a success.

rukidding

At this point in time I find it amazing that there are still loyal republicans or loyal democrats; I also refuse to capitalize for what should be obvious reasons. Our two party system is nothing more than a bowl of crap. To announce that this party or that party is nothing more than liars and slanderers is to have one's head in the sand over what they believe "their" own party is doing.

What say we start labeling individuals instead of the entire party, and for all of our sakes, when we go to the polls lets NOT vote a freaking party ticket?

I'm hoping, as I would like to hope all Americans are that the ACA will actually be a wonderful thing for our citizens. Who cares where it came from if it works and solves, or at least helps, with one of the major issues of modern times? Will it be perfect; of course not! Will it need to be tweaked a few times before it is running smooth; of course it will. Will it solve every problem for every person in every situation; really, this one has to be rhetorical. Let’s leave the ACA alone for awhile and stop contributing to the negative hype and hope for the best and then assist with solutions when there is bug in the system.

Mystic Michael

Pointing out what is clearly a matter of public record, namely that the Republicans have in fact been spreading malicious lies about the ACA, is a perfectly reasonable and rational thing to do, considering the damage those lies continue to do to the national psyche, and to the nation's overall comprehension of the program.

When you have people like Sarah Palin screaming about "death panels", and Michelle Bachmann warning that the ACA "kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens", it clearly is those people who have to answer for their lies and slanders - NOT those of us who publicly call them out for having done so.

Who cares where it came from, so long as it solves a problem? The answer to that one is easy - a virtual slam dunk: If you don't care where the good ideas come from - and where the opposition to those good ideas comes from - then you condemn yourself to a lifetime of willful ignorance. And in that state of deliberate ignorance, you make yourself vulnerable & gullible to the propaganda of every two-bit demagogue to come down the pike (i.e. Senator Ted Cruz comes to mind), whether left, right or center; Democrat, Republican or Independent.

How can ANY person function as a well-informed and knowledgeable citizen, well-equipped to grapple with the issues of the day, and able to separate truth from error, self-empowerment from manipulation, unless he/she pays proper attention to the origins of public policy?

Vladtheimp

Yup, those darned Republican lies - they should be hanged for spreading such malicious lies about Obamacare as "If you like your insurance plan, you can keep your insurance plan - period." Followed closely by "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor - period."

As far as "Death Panels, see Paul Krugman:

"Some years down the pike, we're going to get the real solution, which is going to be a combination of death panels and sales taxes.
-- Paul Krugman, This Week, November 14, 2010" http://www.dailykos.com/story/20...

Or Howard Dean, a real medical doctor: One major problem is the so-called Independent Payment Advisory Board. The IPAB is essentially a health-care rationing body. By setting doctor reimbursement rates for Medicare and determining which procedures and drugs will be covered and at what price, the IPAB will be able to stop certain treatments its members do not favor by simply setting rates to levels where no doctor or hospital will perform them.

There does have to be control of costs in our health-care system. However, rate setting—the essential mechanism of the IPAB—has a 40-year track record of failure." http://dailycaller.com/2013/07/2...

Thanks for publicly calling out these lies about Obamacare, MM, even if you misidentified the liars.

newsblogger

My personal experience with ACA: I now (Starting January 1) am having to give up some of my needed medications to cover the huge increase in my monthly insurance payment. My deductible is now double what it was before! I too hope its working for everyone but I feel I must not be the only one who is suffering from this.. better plan.

Tri-cities realist

Hopefully you realized some would pay more, while some would pay less, when you supported obamacare (if in fact you support it). It is just another govt transfer of wealth, and yet the "gap" continues to grow, hmm. Reminds me of the definition of insanity.

Mystic Michael

No, it is NOT a "government transfer of wealth". If that is truly what you think, then clearly you do not understand it.

It is a reasonably-regulated, market-based system for assuring higher quality, more widely available health insurance for a much greater number of Americans than was ever the case before. The government, most assuredly, is not making a profit on the ACA, much less acquiring "wealth". If anyone is acquiring wealth, it is still the insurance companies - as has ever been the case.

Vladtheimp

"But the redistribution of wealth has always been a central feature of the law and lies at the heart of the insurance market disruptions driving political attacks this fall. "

" The Affordable Care Act was a similar semantic sidestep. The law targeted high earners, too, by raising their Medicare taxes enough to reduce their after-tax incomes by nearly 2 percent, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. That revenue helped finance coverage for those currently without insurance, who tend to have lower incomes and who in many cases will receive government subsidies to make their premiums cheaper.

And yet for those nervous about potential changes, the president promised stability. “If you like your current insurance, you will keep your current insurance,” Mr. Obama said the day he signed the legislation in March 2010, a promise he made repeatedly as the Oct. 1 opening day of the online health insurance marketplaces approached.

Hiding in plain sight behind that pledge — visible to health policy experts but not the general public — was the redistribution required to extend health coverage to those who had been either locked out or priced out of the market.

Now some of that redistribution has come clearly into view."

Read the whole article on how Obamacare is, in fact, a huge government transfer of wealth.http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/2...

Lanivan

What's worse? Selecting words that instill optimism and positivity, or deceptive rhetoric that stirs emotions and aggression?

Perhaps the whole thing comes down to one word - compromise, and the inability/unwillingness of current conservatives to do so. I quote a favored commenter from another forum - "All of Obamacare is one huge compromise. This is why it is so complex, maybe too complex. An uncompromising position would have produced Medicare For All".

Vladtheimp

I know this is hard for a Centrist/Republican/Progressive to wrap their minds around, but maybe if Obama and the Democrats had simply told the truth instead of searching for words to disguise what they were doing to us, both we and they would all be better off.

And I note that you're still in the word game phase - "Medicare for All" sounds better than socialized government controlled medicine. I also note that if you wanted to be more correct in your spin, it would be "Medicaid for All" which Obamacare is currently promoting in the states, including Michigan, that were dumb enough to take the federal bribes.

Mystic Michael

Let's not kid ourselves (well, you can continue to kid yourself if you like): Much of our federal fiscal, monetary & tax policy is already heavily redistributionist. It simply distributes wealth in a regressive way instead of in a progressive way, from the relative have-nots to the already-haves - in the form of corporate welfare to Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Banking; rampant loopholes in the tax code that allow our largest corporations to pay absolute zero in federal income tax; sweetheart no-bid Pentagon contracts to Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas, Halliburton, etc.; the arbitrarily low cap on Social Security tax of $113,700; fiscal austerity policies that prioritize debt reduction over investment in our own people and job creation; the shielding of capital gains and inheritances; and on and on and on.

Every dollar either sucked out of the public Treasury for illegitimate purposes (i.e. to subsidize those who don't need it - at the expense of those who do), or simply never paid into the Treasury in the first place, is a dollar that can never be used to improve the quality of public infrastructure & services for the benefit of ALL Americans. It also gives bought-and-paid-for corporate puppet politicians, such as Paul Ryan, a convenient pretext by which to cry "poverty", as a "justification" for starving social safety net programs even more, through so-called "entitlements reform" (a sterling example of double-speak if there ever was one).

So given this context of actual reality, trotting out the "R" word in an effort to scare people away from a program that can actually help ordinary Americans for a change, is highly distorted and cynically disingenuous - at best. Otherwise known as standard operating procedure for the far Right.

Tri-cities realist

Our tax policy is regressive? Perhaps the definitions have changed, since last I checked, the federal income tax rates increase (progressively) as income increases. Since the goal is fairness (right?), would you support a flat tax MM?

rj18rad

This will work out well. Yeah...let's just guess the costs for now.
http://in.reuters.com/article/20...

Tri-cities realist

Yep, no room for fraud or errors there, hahaha. Actually, while at face value it might seem the govt is trying to help the insurance companies get paid on time, another possibility exists. When the estimates are "trued up" and the govt realizes that insurance companies overestimated the payments they were due, the administration can complain that those evil greedy insurance companies gouged the taxpayers. The insurance companies would be wise to stay on the low end of the estimates to avoid future bad press.

Wolverine49457

The rollout has been like shampoo instructions...spend 400 million...repeat. Do this enough times and even the idiots running the country can get it close to right by accident. Democrats and Republicans are equivelent to dumb and dumber...the greedy yoked to the ignorant but smooth talkers...enough tickling of ears, lets get back to some sense of common sense for us and our brothers across the globe.

gordbzz231

I applied on the obama healthcare website a month ago with no problems, i also got a exempt status, meaning i don't qualify under the guidelines, so i did not even look at the plans, mean while, i go to muskegon family care clinic and was told that they have increased funding thru the state to cover the one,s that will not qualify for obama care, my copay at the clinic is 20.00 to see the doc and meds, also mercy hospital is connected with muskegon family care and provide basic care like blood tests, ex rays, health screening, emergency care when needed at a reduced costs, this means a lot for many people that can not afford health insurance, basically its either health insurance and live on the street or pay my rent, not a good choice

gordbzz231

sorry for posting some personal information, just letting people there is help out there !!!

Hoofhearted

Also, don't forget that your premiums will go down by $2500.00 in 2014 and your employer will give you a raise from all the money they're saving.

horst

how can you tell when Obama's lying????...His mouth is moving

LIAMD

LIAR. He's a communist socialist dictator called a 'progressive' today's Democrap.

bigdeal

aww, Vlad has another fan.

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