Biggest Problem with the Health Care Exchanges: No One Wants Them

From the steps of the Old State Capitol Building in Springfield, Illinois, to the corn fields of Iowa, Barack Obama spoke eloquently of how he was instrumental in the changes which provided children of poor families access to health insurance. He promised the Moon and the Sun, and put the stars in the eyes of millions while he campaigned mightily on a platform of reforming health care.

Originally proposed by The Heritage Foundation and championed by conservative congressional leaders Newt Gingrich, Orin Hatch, and Charles Grassley in 1993, health care reform efforts saw controversy and several revisions before the final Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.

For better or worse, health insurance and health care has changed more dramatically than at any time since Franklin Roosevelt proposed employer-sponsored health insurance.

Well beyond the implementation date of October 1, 2013, the federal government’s HealthCare.gov site is not even remotely functional and many states which have developed their own sites are faring no better: The Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada sites don’t appear to be working at all.

I began promptly on the morning of October 1 attempting to enroll my family in one of the extraordinarily confusing array of choices on the webpage of Silver State Health Insurance Exchange – Nevada Health Link.

The accomplishments I’ve made as of today, after daily efforts for thirty eight days? Our names, address, telephone, and social security numbers are now in the exchange.

Persistent if nothing else, and like most of my gender, the mere suggestion that I seek directions is not just offensive, it’s a call to battle.  But after no less than thirty attempts, I caved. I swallowed my pride and forced my hands to punch the numbers into the phone. Relief! A familiar voice!

Apparently Ernestine has clout. Upon returning to the exchange’s webpage a few days later, I was at last treated to a list of “brokers,” people who have received weeks of training for this stupendous event.

Contact! Someone to help me find a way out of this endless loop!

After thirty minutes of me walking the well-trained broker through the Nevada Health Link page, we successfully assigned the broker to my account.

One more of easily 75,000 steps out of the way! “What next?” I ask.

“Well, I think we should just wait until the program is operational,” the broker replied. “I’m sorry I can’t help any more than this, but nothing seems to be working very well yet.”

I knew I shouldn’t have picked up that phone, committing the mortal sin of seeking assistance. I’ve shamed myself in front of my entire family and perhaps an entire nation. The only thing left for me now is move to Toronto and run for mayor.

During her testimony before the House regarding the dismal failure of Healtcare.gov and the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM), Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal Inc, said:

The Federal Exchange, including the FFM, is not a standard consumer website.”

Ahh! There’s the problem! If I’d only known this from the beginning! It’s all so clear now; standard consumers are trying to use a website that is not a standard consumer website. How utterly foolish of us!

All this time, while working diligently to fulfill my responsibilities, suddenly and surely with no provocation whatsoever, a slogan from the Vietnam War era kept entering my head: “What if they gave a war and nobody came?”

I wonder, “what if they gave a health care exchange and nobody came?” 

Gallup Health Exchange Participation // Credit: Gallup
Credit: Gallup