Maybe Obamacare exchanges are asking too many questions

10/07/2013 1:56 PM

10/08/2013 6:04 PM

News accounts

about the problems with the federal health care exchange are saying that people who manage to get into the site at all are getting hung up at the point where they are asked to provide information and register.

But state-designed exchanges, which are working much better, allow consumers to browse among the sites without providing information.

That makes more sense. A lot of people logging on to the exchanges right now are gawkers. Or they’re thinking about leaving their jobs at some point and want to see what insurance would cost. Or they are workers at social service agencies, looking for information so they can help their clients. They’re not really thinking about purchasing a policy right now, so they shouldn’t have to provide all kinds of upfront data, especially if that is what’s crashing the servers.

You can sneer about the incompetence of the federal bureaucracy. But a lot of the blame in these parts lies with GOPleaders in Missouri and Kansas who refused to design unique state insurance marketplaces.

The people who crafted the Affordable Care Act never anticipated that the Department of Health and Human Services would have to design and operate insurance marketplaces for 36 states. Who would have thought that states whose governors and legislators despise Washington with all their being would yield so much power to the federal government?

Over the weekend I talked to a Kansas man who said he and his wife had been trying for days to get into the federal site,, to look at the plans available in Kansas. Both were trying at regular intervals, he said.

They have cause for urgency. He is retired and receives Medicare. His wife is self-employed, and currently paying $1,000 a month, plus a $5,000 deductible, for coverage in the Kansas high-risk pool.

I was puzzled at that, because I know the woman and she seems athletic and healthy. But it turns out that a few years ago a mammogram detected a very small, almost microscopic, sign of cancer. She had it removed and has been healthy ever since, but that bad mammagram has caused her to be rejected by insurance companies.

She finally got through to someone at the Marketplace call center, and is waiting for information about the options available in Kansas to come via snail mail.

The package is almost certain to bring good news. There’s a really good chance this couple will see their monthly rates cut by half or more. There are thousands of people in situations like this. And the sooner they get that website running smoothly and get people signed up for insurance, the harder it will be for the delusional tea party faithful in Congress to continue holding up government funding over a wish to delay or defund Obamacare.

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