It happened. The Affordable Care Act (ACA’s) health coverage exchange websites went live yesterday, while the government shut down.
First, a quick glance at the numbers:
* New York officials reported 2.5 million visits to its exchange site within the first 30 minutes.
* California, the state highest in uninsured citizens, reported its exchange had up to 16,000 hits a minute.
* Maryland and Minnesota, two of the 14 states, like Washington, D.C., that built their own sites, pushed launch from 8 a.m. to the afternoon.
* Oregon, where about 560,000 lack health insurance, had 59,000 hits by 2 p.m.; and, 2,100 calls to its support center.
* Connecticut had 28,000 hits by 4 p.m.; and, 167 of those people applied for insurance.
* The heavy demand drove investor stocks upward as hospital and insurer shares rose.
* Heavy demand among other causes led to technical glitches and delays throughout the nation.
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Yesterday was a historic day in our country. The government shut down for the first time in 17 years and did not restart by day’s end; 800,000 “non-essential” U.S. government workers were sent home without pay; and, America’s first-ever nationwide healthcare exchanges still opened for business. Here’s a look at what went down on that chaotic, calamitous and victorious day, the day people got affordable health insurance as a basic human right, not a privilege.
Glitches, Delays but Liftoff Nonetheless
While many politicians pointed out on the social networks the glitches and hiccups occurring as health coverage exchange sites went live across the nation, and there were more than should have occurred on launch day, anyone who has ever worked at a start-up before knows that glitches and hiccups and tinkering to get it right are part and parcel to a site launch. Indeed, that is what the so-called Beta test period of start-up websites is all about — when a group of people poke and click and scroll around a site to identify what’s not working and how to fix it. What cannot be denied? The massive number of Americans who, despite delays and hiccups, made it to the sites, in droves, especially in biggie states such as California and New York, indicating a high demand for health insurance. This hints also that the problem was never that people did not want coverage, for themselves or their children. It was more likely just not a perk they could afford to provide. It’s this high demand that suggests early success for the Affordable Care Act’s healthcare exchanges.
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Tea Party Evacuations
Of course, the swath of our nation is vast. While the number of clicks on the sites was escalating, as many of the nation’s uninsured clawed for an affordable coverage plan, not all Americans were champing at the bit to enroll. A satirical post written by comedian Andy Borowitz on The New Yorker blog yesterday read of a tale of millions of Americans fleeing the country in the “Tea Party’s Freedom Caravan” in order to escape Obamacare. Said one mock source in the caravan on the satirical blog, “My father didn’t have health care and neither did my father’s father before him. I’ll be damned if I am going to let my children have it.” While this is clearly an exaggeration, it may not be as far as we would like to think from what some Americans actually think.
Tune In, America
Wow. Really? Well, not really, but as that other comedian known as Jimmy Kimmel’s show did really point out, those asked in man-on-street interviews whether they preferred Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act chose one or the other, and, trying hard to sound knowledgeable, gave reasons why, not ever realizing that these were just two different names for the same thing. It’s funny, until it is embarrassing and discouraging.
I, for one, would be curious to know this Tea Party Caravan member’s father’s father’s lifespan, and, of course, how this guy would expect to pay for care, at the highest cost, mind you, if, God forbid, a random, chance, unforeseen and unpreventable medical emergency occurred (slipping on ice, getting hit by a car, etc.). It’s also worth mentioning that several major health conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, occur with no visible symptoms at all in their early stages. Would he be prepared to sell all of his possessions, declare bankruptcy, beg his church to dig into its coffers to bail him out? No matter how healthy you are, when emergency strikes (and by nature of life, it does), any basic comprehensive healthcare coverage is better than no coverage at all. At one editing job I had, there was a three-month wait period for health insurance. Ever the health nut, I decided to wait it out. Hey! I ate my five a day. Hey! I ran six times a week. Hey! I yoga’ed regularly. And Hey! I still shockingly ended up with low blood-sugar immediately after a steamy July race in Central Park, was zoomed to the hospital, given a carton of orange juice and a pin prick, released within 40 minutes and billed $3,000.
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One woman took to Twitter to voice a polar-opposite reaction, as polarizing views have become the norm in our country. When she saw, in black and white, her monthly savings, she posted as @Song4Jazz: “@CoveredCA we’re saving $1000/month with Gold80 plan Blue Shield of Cali. I’m jumping up and down for joy. Thank you #Obamacare.”
Another woman on a listserv to which I belong, a freelancer supporting a family, posted that, despite her intense skepticism, she went on to her state’s exchange, New York, and discovered that she will have a better plan on the exchanges and save between $6,000 and $10,000 a year on premiums, plus enjoy what she called great benefits, all without any subsidy.
But back over at the U.S. Capitol, House Republican leaders put forth a plan for stopgap spending bills for the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Park Service and the Washington, D.C. government through Dec. 15 (wahoo, a big six-week band-aid) — offered, of course, on the condition that limits would be placed on the Affordable Care Act. Sneaky and mighty persistent, that gang of 30 to 50 minority of the minority of the minority crew. All three bills failed in the House.
“It’s pathetic,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, reported Bloomberg Business. “It’s not responsible. It’s beneath the dignity. I keep saying that, but it’s further beneath the dignity,” adding that it’s not about the parks; it is about the Affordable Care Act.
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Time Will Tell
Hey, I’m with you. Let’s not any of us get ahead of ourselves here. While interest, curiosity and traffic to the healthcare exchanges is a positive reaffirming sign, what will really begin to bring about the massive healthcare reform needed in the nation is having click-throughs to policy purchases. There’s still plenty of time for that, though. In order for coverage to begin on Jan. 1, 2014, citizens have until Dec. 15, 2013 to enroll. And even beyond that, for coverage starting later, enrollment will remain open until March 2014.
This is a monumental undertaking, let not one of us forget this. Think about it. Fifty states, a government attempting to enroll 7 million uninsured citizens (with threats of $95 fines if they don’t, which will jump to nearly $700 next year). Michigan alone offers 43 plans in its insurance pool. Each plan has to be looked at individually. Remember, you can always call 1-800-318-2596 for help. Get the support you need. You’re beautiful, you’re fabulous and I know you want to take care of your body for a long, healthy and prosperous life!
Please note that this article was updated on Oct. 4, 2013, to clarify that the New Yorker blog post by Andy Borowitz was comic satire.