Lots of people have checked out (or tried to check out) the federal government's Obamacare insurance exchange website -- HealthCare.gov -- but how many Floridians have actually bought insurance since its Oct. 1 launch?
Officials have been mum about the enrollment numbers, nationwide and state-by-state, although they've said more than 8 million people flocked to the website in the first three days.
"Do you know anyone who's actually enrolled?" asked Ramona Boehler of Sunrise, who wants insurance but failed to get through the process in the first week. "I don't."
I don't either, but I'd love to hear from people who've actually gotten all the way through the balky, four-step process to procure health insurance via the federal exchange.
I wrote about Boehler's frustrations and the troubled launch of Obamacare for my Sunday print column, and predictably I heard from lots of Democrats and Obamacare supporters who didn't think it was fair to judge so early and so harshly.
But my judgment wasn't about the Affordable Care Act as a whole, but more about how if you're going to mandate individual policies by 2014 (or face tax penalties), then you better make darn sure that your enrollment system is functional from the get-go. After all, we all knew that there are lots of uninsured people (and underinsured people) who were going to check things out.
And even though obstructionist Republicans in states like Florida refused to set up their own state-run exchanges and thus forced more demand into the federal-run exchange, that's also no excuse.
As it is, the technical difficulties and the bureaucratic complexities play right into the hands of those that want to sink Obamacare before it really starts. It turns out Obamacare might be its own worst enemy. I mean you couldn't make up some of the hilarity of the jargon: for those who need help, the site explains that you can turn to "navigators," "application assisters" and "certified application counselors."
Even though I'm not eligible for tax credits because I have employer-provided insurance, I wanted to check out insurance options on the website. I couldn't even make it through step one (the account set-up process). I filled out some basic info, answered three security questions, and then the site rejected me because the security answers weren't in the proper format. Instead of saving the info that I already inputted, it went back to a blank square one.
Those who set up accounts (with usernames and passwords) are supposed to fill out online applications. Many couldn't do that, and resorted to the phone lines.
Apparently there's a lag time between submitting your application and getting approval to actually get onto the exchange to compare scores of options and actually buy/enroll in insurance.
Boehler was told she'd get a certification letter to get onto the system.Even with all the tax credits/subsidies available, if health insurance turns out to be more expensive for many middle-class people (because many existing plans are closing on Jan. 1), then the Affordable Care Act won't be so affordable.
That's going to burn a lot of people, Democrats and Republicans alike.
I'll be following this work in progress (or wreck in progress, depending on your viewpoint) as it goes along. Feel free to keep sending me your stories at email@example.com.