Glitches on First Day, But No Furloughs for Those on Obamacare Operations

The Health Insurance Marketplace, a key part of the Affordable Care Act, was unveiled Tuesday to provide a simpler way for uninsured Americans and their families to purchase health insurance in one place. The law, familiarly known as Obamacare, requires every American to obtain health insurance in one form or another.

Coverage begins as early as Jan. 1, 2014, for people enrolling by Dec. 15.

“For years, the financial, physical or mental health of millions of Americans suffered because they couldn’t afford the care they or their family needed,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services. “But thanks to the healthcare law, all of that is changing. Today’s launch begins a new day when healthcare coverage will be more accessible and affordable than ever before.”

Sebelius said the Marketplace offers a range of health insurance options so consumers can select a plan that best meets their needs. Individuals will be able to determine if they qualify for lower costs on health insurance based on income or free or low-cost coverage available through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

“Today marks the start of an intense six-month long open enrollment and public education campaign for the Marketplace,” said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “We want consumers to know that they can find and compare options, check if they qualify for lower costs and get covered.”

Obama charged that the shutdown “is about rolling back our efforts to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it.”

“It’s all about rolling back the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “This, more than anything else, seems to be what the Republican Party stands for these days. I know it’s strange that one party would make keeping people uninsured the centerpiece of their agenda, but that apparently is what it is.”

Still, problems popped up across the country. In Oregon, one of the states that chose to operate its own exchange, prospective buyers faced extensive website delays and were advised to sign up for an email notification of when it might be available. Maryland, another state with its own exchange, experienced four-hour delays.

Kansas advised consumers to wait a few weeks before trying to enter the system while the state works out the kinks. California officials acknowledged that the system was running slowly. Nonetheless, about 5 million residents managed to click onto the state’s website.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the various delays and glitches proved that Obamacare “is not ready for prime-time.” He was not alone in that assessment.

"These exchanges are going live today with too many unanswered questions and too many unsolved problems," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). “The Obama administration should have acknowledged the ample warning signs of problems in the exchanges and heeded the many calls for delay.”

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, said the glitches revealed “how totally unprepared the government is for this launch even with three and a half years to prepare.”

“This is nothing, however, compared to the potentially irreversible damage the law threatens in the long term: skyrocketing premiums for families, more out-of-pocket costs, less choice and fewer plans and an unprecedented burden placed on small businesses and job creators,” Issa said. “The American people deserve better than this train wreck of a law, whose own champions have resorted to tamping down expectations while refusing to consider alternatives.”

Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) noted that Obama administration officials provided constant assurances that “the massive program would be ready on Oct. 1. Yet here we are, witnessing failure on day one. This law was never ready for primetime and never will be."

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) said lawmakers were deprived of “the kind of opportunities you’d want to have to modify, to adjust, to try to make this law better” when it became law in 2010. The result, he said, is “a system that’s full of glitches -- I think that’s the word most frequently being used today. Glitches means its not working. I don’t think those glitches get any better over the next few weeks.”