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President Barack Obama repeatedly told Americans that under Obamacare they could keep their health plan but that turned out to be an “incorrect promise,” as the New York Times famously put it. Obamacare took away Americans’ health plans by the millions, which was the plan all along. Obamacare mandates more expensive plans with weaker benefits, and to that end steers Americans toward the Obamacare website. Trouble is, from the beginning that website has been dysfunctional and insecure. Even those who “enroll” remain unsure if they actually have a policy. All that, and much more, is a tough act to follow, but during the holiday season Obamacare proved up to the task.
As the New York Times noted, on December 24, Christmas Eve, the Obama administration said “it would provide more time for people to complete their applications for health insurance if they could show that they missed the deadline because of problems with the federal health care website.” But the administration places the burden of proof on the individual to prove that the website caused them to miss the deadline. And as the report noted:
“The announcement itself was vague, saying only that if website problems had prevented any consumers from enrolling, they might qualify for what the government has called ‘a special enrollment period.’ The administration did not say how long that would last. Nor did it define what website errors might be involved.” This was not a “blanket extension” but an offer of “assistance to individuals on a case-by-case basis.” Obamacare even offered an 800 number for Americans to call and “explain why they could not complete their applications in time.”
The latest deadline extension doesn’t apply in California, where Covered California is supposedly a model of Obamacare efficiency. But according to a report by Sarah Hellesen of the CHCF Center for Health Reporting, many applicants to Covered California could not even finish the application process, “thwarted by website glitches and swamped phone lines and the inability to find in-person help.” Others thought they had enrolled “but never received confirmation of the transaction.”
So those who expect health care could wind up with a lump of coal in their stocking, and that does not bode well for a happy new year. In 2014 Obamacare will doubtless set new standards for waste, incompetence and abuse.