On Sunday, President Barack Obama bristled when Bill O'Reilly of Fox News asked him in a Super Bowl pregame interview about continuing problems with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's computer system. The president declared that they had all been cleared up within six weeks (by mid-November), and that "now it's working the way it's supposed to."
But a January Associated Press poll found only 8 percent of those who had tried to sign up at HealthCare.gov said it worked well, while 53 percent said it was not working well.
The Washington Post reports that the appeals process is one area where the new health care insurance marketing system does not work at all. Unknown thousands of people appealing adverse decisions of the computer system are, and for the foreseeable future will be, in an unjust limbo.
That's a major flaw and further clear evidence of bad management in implementing the Affordable Care Act.
If someone believes he has been charged too much by the Obamacare system, or put into the wrong health care plan, or wrongly denied coverage or a subsidy, the law says he is entitled to a timely hearing. But the part of the computer system that would allow agency workers to read and handle appeals has not even been built, according to the Post, citing informed sources.
Creating necessary changes in the computer system to allow for appeals is not a high priority for the Obama administration, the Post reports, despite the fact that it has been on notice since December about this flaw in Obamacare.
"There is no indication that infrastructure ... necessary for conducting informal reviews and fair hearings has even been created, let alone become operational," the National Health Law Program said in a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the agency of the Health and Human Services Department that oversees HealthCare.gov.
Instead, the Obama administration is giving priority attention to other non-operational features of the new health care program.
These include the ability to adjust policies to allow for changes such as a different income, a new baby or disabling illness; to exchange information with state Medicaid programs; and to make electronic payments to insurers.
Simply put, there continue to be major flaws in a system that is supposed, in the president's words to Mr. O'Reilly, to be "working the way its supposed to."
Speaking with Mr. O'Reilly on Fox, Mr. Obama dismissed the problems that HeathCare.gov has encountered since its launch last October as the "glitches" that all new technology programs experience, a line also used by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
But this system ignores consumer complaints, is too inflexible to make policy adjustments as changing life circumstances dictate, can't make timely payments to insurers, and can't communicate with another major federal health insurance program, even if it can now sign up individuals - or at least some of them.
Those shortcomings are not glitches. They are evidence of bad planning, bad decisions, unseemly haste and major incompetence.
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