The Broken Promise Underlying Obamacare’s Exchange Debacle
Chris Jacobs /
The public recriminations continue surrounding Obamacare’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week and the myriad problems plaguing health insurance exchanges. But the concerns about flawed websites and consumer privacy are also symptoms of trying to mask the massive premium increases due to Obamacare.
The Associated Press (AP) explains that many of the flaws on the federally run exchange stem from the fact that consumers cannot “window shop” for health plans without first establishing an account. IT consultants called the exchanges’ lack of anonymous shopping capabilities a “major design flaw,” because it creates potential bottlenecks in the system as soon as the customer enters the site and needs to register. It’s one of many reasons why companies like Amazon and Orbitz let their customers browse anonymously before creating an account. But the Administration took a completely different approach when designing the federally run exchange, and the AP explains why:
Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters said Tuesday the government omitted a window-shopping function because officials first wanted consumers to know the amount of the subsidy they might be eligible for. Those income-based tax credits can dramatically reduce premiums for people with modest incomes, and personal financial information is needed to calculate the subsidies.
“Our process allows us to show consumers plans with prices that reflect what they will pay with the tax credit they may be eligible for,” Peters said. “Window shopping would not allow for this.”
One obvious reason why the Administration wants to highlight the cost of health insurance after the application of premium subsidies is because the law’s new mandates and requirements dramatically raise the cost of insurance before those subsidies are applied. But compiling and processing all the subsidy information for consumers has overwhelmed the exchange website—the warnings that “the federal exchange was not ready to launch” were not heeded, and the results have been obvious.
While running for President in 2008, then-Senator Obama promised his health plan would lower health insurance premiums by $2,500 per family. As many Americans are realizing, Obamacare is raising, not lowering, the cost of health insurance. Unfortunately, it appears that the Administration’s unwillingness to acknowledge this broken promise may have been at the root of the ongoing technological debacles with Obamacare’s exchanges.