Despite the government shutdown essentially stemming from Congress’s inability to agree on the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, the new Obamacare insurance exchange website Healthcare.gov has been operating for several weeks.
The aim of the new health insurance exchanges is to clearly demonstrate which plans are available to users and at what cost. When the exchanges initially opened, however, users reported extremely slow loading times, a problem that was originally attributed to a large amount of traffic.
New reports from economic publications such as Forbes and The Wall Street Journal suggest these digital traffic jams have been caused by a government decision to conceal the actual costs of health insurance offered on the site. Users are forced to enter a large amount of personal data on Healthcare.gov before receiving any pricing information. The site then searches through the data and plans while attempting to decipher whether or not a user qualifies for certain subsidies. This searching process has led to extended delays on the site.
These delays could have been avoided, critics argue, if the true costs of the insurance plans offered by the site were displayed prior to logging all of this information.
Journalists Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal claimed that the original layout of the health site included pricing information upfront.
“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” Weaver and Radnofsky wrote. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said. An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of the policies.”
There has been much speculation as to the actual effect the Affordable Care Act would have on insurance prices. While the new insurance exchanges drive down costs for those with pre-existing conditions or low incomes, the middle and upper class may be forced to pay more than they would have prior to the enactment of the ACA, some argue.
Although specific pricing varies from individual to individual, essentially making the traffic-causing search delay necessary, the new insurance exchange site does appear to be receiving a significant amount of criticism from citizens.
The New York Times recently ran a piece detailing all of the issues with the site, claiming that politics — specifically, party affiliation — have been getting in the way of bureaucrats creating an efficiently-running, effective site. Judging by the current state of affairs — or lack thereof — in Washington D.C., that appears to be true for more than just the new health care website.