WASHINGTON — Nearly four years after it was signed and after months of scrambling and uncertainty, President Barack Obamas landmark bid to guarantee Americans health security takes full effect Wednesday as the Affordable Care Act begins delivering health care coverage to millions nationwide.
Tribune Washington Bureau
Administration officials reported Sunday that some 1.1 million people had enrolled in health plans using the federal website, HealthCare.gov, the main entry point for coverage in 36 states. Nearly all the enrollments came in the last few weeks as the deadline approached for coverage that would take effect Jan. 1.
Several hundred thousand people have enrolled on separate sites run by 14 states and the District of Columbia, with the largest figure coming from California, where more than 400,000 have signed up.
An exact count nationwide is not yet available because not all states have tallied their figures, but the total appears to be around 2 million. That remains short of the administrations original goal of 3 million by this point, but marks a significant recovery from the systems disastrous debut in October. More than 4 million additional people have been found eligible for coverage under the laws expansion of Medicaid and the Childrens Health Insurance Program.
How the law will ultimately work and whether it can endure remain unclear, though the fact that coverage will now be real for several million people will almost certainly change the debate over Republican efforts to repeal it.
While that broader political fight plays out, doctors, hospitals and pharmacies across the country are bracing for more confusion as patients struggle to understand their new coverage.
Some may show up at physicians offices without insurance cards, victims of the error-plagued enrollment process that bedeviled the initial rollout.
Others may discover that although theyre properly enrolled in a health plan, the doctor or hospital they visit or the prescription they want to fill wont be covered by the plan they have selected.
Still other patients, including many who have never had insurance before, may be shocked to learn they have to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket before their coverage kicks in.