The rollout of the Affordable Care Act has been a nightmare for the Obama administration, perhaps inflicting more damage to the health insurance overhaul than are Republicans who loathe it so much they were willing to shut down the government to defund it.
We have our misgivings about the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. But we have supported it because it is the closest our country has come to universal health care and because it holds the promise of insuring many millions of people for whom health insurance is a fantasy.
Yet no sooner was the online registration unveiled Oct. 1 than problems prevented people who wanted to enroll from doing so. The culprits, the public has been told, are unspecified glitches stemming from the initial response to the program that was much greater than President Barack Obama or Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had anticipated. How many Americans want nothing to do with Obamacare now isn’t known, but there’s little doubt the computer problems frustrated and perhaps drove off — at least temporarily — untold numbers of potential participants.
That’s a problem because the success of Obamacare depends on participation numbers, especially of young and healthy Americans. In too many cases, though, the first impression hasn’t been what the government had hoped.
If it’s easy to say that Health and Human Services and its computer programs were unprepared, it’s because it’s the truth. It’s fair to wonder why the government, particularly given the determination of Obamacare’s foes, were not ready for… anything. And although Republicans in Congress and in a majority of states have done as much as they could to thwart anything and everything associated with Obamacare, the computer problems were self-inflicted.
Obamacare isn’t the only project to be afflicted by computer problems. Kansas has had its share, certainly, and private businesses are hardly immune to them. But that doesn’t excuse this administration’s fumbling in a program that not only can perform immense good but is also President Obama’s signature initiative.
Perhaps it can overcome this shaky start, which has hurt the program’s credibility, given its opponents more reason to condemn it and given late night comedians ample fodder for their jokes.
If there is a silver lining, it is that enrollment has been under way for less than three weeks. There is time to correct problems and overcome an unfortunate first impression —but it’s time that had better be well spent.