It's time for Republicans to dust off the old Obamacare-is-socialist attacks, because HealthCare.gov is open for business. Acknowledging that “poor execution in the first couple months on the web site clouded the fact that there are a whole bunch of people who stand to benefit,” the Obama Administration is now encouraging traffic to the site and reminding everyone that the deadline to receive coverage on January 1, 2014, is December 23.
On just Sunday and Monday of this week, 29,000 people selected and enrolled in health plans through HealthCare.gov, which surpasses the website's record for the entire month of October. And over one million people accessed the HealthCare.gov website on both Monday and Tuesday of this week without any major issues, thanks in part to a new online queue or “waiting room” that puts users on hold if the site gets too crowded.
If you don't have health insurance, it's time to get a move on. Starting January 1, almost everyone who doesn't have health insurance will have to pay a fee, in addition to paying all health care costs out of pocket. Despite the fact that it's generally the same price to pay the fee or get health insurance, a recent Gallup poll finds that “Republicans without health insurance are just as likely to pay the fine imposed by the federal health-care law as they are to obtain coverage to avoid the penalty” at a rate of 46 to 45 percent. Meanwhile, 80 percent of Democrats plan to get coverage, while only 15 percent plan to pay the penalty.
In a spirit similar to that of the Republicans who would rather pay higher costs and forego coverage than accept the ACA, Texas is trying to make it as hard as possible for you to enroll. Read how after the jump.In rules proposed Tuesday by Texas Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber, Texas health care navigators (whose job is to help consumers enroll in health insurance) would be required to prove their citizenship or employment, undergo a background check, show evidence of financial responsibility and participate in 40 hours of privacy standards education. This is on top of the already- required training on health plans, privacy and security standards and ACA eligibility. At the end of all this, navigators in Texas would still be prohibited from providing any explicit advice to consumers.
Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Health and Human Services, points out the hypocrisy of these inordinately burdensome regulations on health care navigators: “The navigator program is similar to Medicare counselors, which have existed for years and never faced this kind of scrutiny from Texas.” The proposed rules will be published in the Texas Register on Friday, and public comments will be accepted until January 6. While there will be an opportunity to weigh in, it's likely that the rules will go into effect in early 2014.
But despite the best efforts of Texas or the many other naysayers, the reality is that the Affordable Care Act is still the law and is now providing life-saving opportunities for millions of people, as well as not-insignificant consequences for those who continue to thumb their nose at it.