The first Obamacare sign-up deadline has passed and here in Washington, through Dec. 23, just over 65,000 people have successfully enrolled in the non-Medicaid health plans, which is about half of what the goal was for that category.
Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler acknowledges that’s fewer than he’d hoped.
“Obviously we always hope for more, but when you look at the projections we’re at approximately a fifth of the uninsured in the state of Washington are going to have health insurance,” says Kreidler.
He says that’s a pretty good number considering this is the first three months of a six month open enrollment period. You have until March 31 before reaching the next deadline.
People have been trying to figure out whether the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the health exchange have been a failure or not. Or at least, that’s the nature of the correspondence that I get. Critics says things like, ‘the goal was one thing – the sign ups are a small fraction of that, it’s time to admit that this has failed.’
But what does Kriedler think about that?
“I think people have very short memory.” He says to think back to 2006 as the pharmaceutical benefit under medicare was just getting underway – it had a very rough start.
The complexity of what’s coming through from the Affordable Care Act is a 10-fold in complexity, when compared to that 2006 rollout.
So Kriedler says, “I would have to say we’re not doing all that bad. We can do better, and I think that it’s having some patience.”
When Krielder was recently back before Congress, he says patience was the message he tried to give when he testified. “This is really a process in the next two to three years before we really start to have a feel of, well it’s working or it’s not working […] and quite frankly, at this point I’d have to say it’s really working much better than we probably had a right to think (it would) given the rough start, particularly for the federal exchange.”
Everybody seems to agree that the website roll out was a problem. But what we here now, mostly from critics of the plan, is that we haven’t seen the half of it yet.
In the coming year we’re going to see more employers alter health plans available for their employees and more of these health care plans canceled. It could lead to a panic similar to when those first letters began going out from the insurers in October.
But Kriedler believes the vast majority of people will be very pleased with the health care changes.
“The fact that they can’t be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, that they have the assurance of being able to have robust coverage as opposed to trying to have the very limited coverage that we’ve seen in the past,” says Kriedler. “I think we’re going to see employers are going to be stepping up (to select) a good plan and change for employees. And employees are going to be happy, and overall it helps to make sure the U.S. economy and the economy of the state of Washington works much better.”
But when will that turn around?
Obamacare supporters say that as Americans discover the benefits of Obamacare it will poll a lot better – but the poll numbers continue to drop.
Kriedler says he thinks that’s because a lot of the adverse publicity of the federal exchange. “I think what you’re going to find is that people have started to know, either because with themselves or a family member or a neighbor or somebody else at their church community, is benefiting. Those stories are going to start to become much more routine, and as that becomes more standard I think you’re going to see the poll numbers continue to improve.”
And for people who still want to repeal Obamacare – it’s not gonna happen.
“We’re finally on the road to doing something and this is the only game out there right now and it’s not as if there is a fallback position,” says Kriedler. The current (option) was clearly failing, and it failed a million people who didn’t have health insurance and many of the people who bought there own health insurance had very inadequate policies that would have not insured them if they had a serious medical crisis in their lives. We have a change to that right now and it’s the beginning of change that we have a much more accountable help to hold down the cost of going forward in ways that we hadn’t imagined in the past.”