The answer depends on whom you ask.
If you ask the IRS, it seems to be going well and as planned. Sarah Hall Ingram, the director of the IRS Affordable Care Act office, recently stated at a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that “the system and processes the IRS has developed to support enrollment in the marketplaces were launched on schedule and are working as planned.” If you ask the general public, you will likely receive a different response.
Articles on the Forbes and the Wall Street Journal websites this week make the claim that the government has purposely created a bottleneck in the enrollment process because they are afraid of letting people see the underlying costs of the policies offered on the exchanges. In the federally run exchanges, before an individual is able to browse the costs of the available options, they are required to create an account and enter detailed personal information first. The exchange then verifies if the individual is eligible for a subsidy, which makes the website run more slowly or not at all. Another health policy blog made the following great analogy: “It is like being expected to fill out an application for a car loan without having any idea of the cars that are available.” This process is certain to deter some from enrolling.
I admit I have not attempted to purchase coverage from the exchange nor do I plan to any time soon (assuming we continue to have good coverage through my husband’s employer). I did enjoy reading a story of a fellow benefits blogger and his failed attempt at getting information from the exchange. He is not alone. At lunch last week, my server asked my lunch companion and I if we worked for an insurance company because she heard us discussing Health Care Reform. When we explained no but we were in the business, she started sharing her story about trying to get coverage from the exchange. She said she was uncomfortable submitting all of her personal information on the website, so she attempted to call the exchange and get enrolled. After being on hold for 2 ½ hours, she spoke to someone who wasn’t able to answer her questions and they told her to call back later for responses. She called a second time and was on hold for almost 2 hours before she had to hang up to leave for her shift at work. Her words on how enrollment were going were that “it had been a nightmare.” I hope for her sake and for the millions of others expected to enroll that they get some of the glitches worked out soon.