goes live, but there are bumps ahead

Faith Merino · October 1, 2013 · Short URL:

Attempting to enroll 48M people in 3 months is going to have its challenges


It’s haaaaaappeniiiiiiing.

The socialist day of reckoning is upon us. Obamacare is alive!

The nationwide health insurance marketplace (and individual state marketplaces) opened for enrollment at midnight October 1. President Obama has likened the experience of shopping for healthcare on to shopping for a plane ticket on Kayak or buying a TV on Amazon.

But it turns out that attempting to enroll 48 million uninsured people into a healthcare plan is a little more complicated than shopping for a TV. Like any other new online marketplace, the Affordable Care Act’s website is dealing with bugs and glitches. But unlike other online marketplaces, the Affordable Care Act didn’t start out small and scale up. It’s attempting to go straight from zero to 48 million in just six months.

Perspective: online retail giant JustFab has been growing at a far faster pace than its rivals, but it took the company three years to reach 35 million members worldwide. Fellow online shopping startup (who JustFab happens to be suing for trademark infringement) launched in 2010 and has amassed 14 million members across 26 countries in those three years. And while Amazon doesn’t share numbers, its Prime subscription service reportedly has some 10 million members—after being around for nigh on eight years.

So, yeah, Obamacare is going to have some glitches to work out. It’s already dealing with a few now. The government announced last week that there would be some delays for small businesses and Spanish-speaking customers. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will not be able to sign up online until November 1, though they’ll still be able to enroll by phone, mail, or fax beginning today. Instead of a live application for small businesses, the government posted a PDF application.

The site’s Spanish-language service is also experiencing some bugs and won’t be available until later this month, the White House announced. Hispanic citizens account for one-third of the 48 million uninsured in America. Like small businesses, Spanish-speaking customers can still enroll by phone or via enrollment specialists known as “navigators.”

Additionally, over the summer, the Treasury Department decided to delay a piece of the Affordable Care Act that would require businesses with more than 50 workers to provide health care coverage for their employees or pay a fine. That part of the legislation will go into effect in 2015.

Every new law faces challenges (it took Medicaid 17 years to be adopted by all 50 states), and every new digital endeavor faces bugs and glitches. But that’s not stopping crackling Republicans from making sweeping dead-on-arrival pronouncements. When the White House revealed last week that it would be another month before small businesses would be able to enroll online, House Small Business Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) seethed.

“I’ve never seen a law implemented with so many delays, mistakes and problems,” he said. Though he was referring specifically to laws, anyone who’s ever downloaded the initial version of a new iOS update knows that the first go-around always comes with bugs. 


Support VatorNews by Donating

Read more from our "Trends and news" series

More episodes