September 30, 2013

More reasons to delay Obamacare

Even as Democrats were branding some Republicans as terrorists for demanding that Obamacare be delayed for a year, President Obama was himself delaying yet another part of that very law.

On Thursday, the administration said it would delay online registration for the federal exchange in which small businesses can purchase health insurance for their employees.

That same day, The Associated Press reported that the Spanish-language version of  healthcare.gov, the site on which individuals can buy health insurance, won’t be ready by Tuesday, when open enrollment on the exchange is supposed to begin.

So far, the administration has delayed almost two dozen provisions of Obamacare, including the provision that firms that employ more than 50 workers provide health insurance and the cap on out-of-pocket expenses. In each case, the government was forced to admit that it is not yet capable of enforcing those provisions.

But the federal government isn’t the only one delaying implementation of Obamacare.

Also on Thursday, the District of Columbia announced its health care exchange won’t be ready to begin online enrollment on Tuesday. Officials say the system has an unacceptably high error rate in determining which individuals are eligible for subsidies to buy insurance.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal exchange and many other state systems have similar problems, though only two other state exchanges, Colorado and Oregon, say they plan to delay online enrollment.

The truth is that both the federal government and many state governments are still trying to install, test and check the security of their computer systems even as you read this.

Megan McArdle, an economic writer for The Atlantic Magazine and former IT consultant, writes that the sort of computer systems needed to implement Obamacare typically take five to eight years to design, install and test. Obamacare passed in 2010, so under the best circumstances everyone had roughly three years to get ready. But because states did not have to decide until 2012 whether to start their own exchanges or allow the federal government to run them, most of the work to build these exchanges has taken place in the last 12 months or so. In other words, they’ve been trying to cram five to eight years of work into one.

We’ll find out very soon just how ready these exchanges are. Until then, it hardly seems extremist to demand that the rest of Obamacare, the parts that the president hasn’t already delayed, be put on hold for another year.


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