As a fresh combat leader was being introduced by the White House today to lead the battle against problems with the "Obamacare" signup website, Florida's junior U.S. Senator Marco Rubio was announcing on Fox News that he'll introduce legislation to delay the Affordable Care Act requirement that all Americans get health insurance.
Also today, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius published a new blog titled "A Technology Surge for HealthCare.gov" on the HHS Digital Strategy website (which is working just fine), promoting the new high-tech team tasked with fixing the problem-plagued online portal to national health reform:
This new infusion of talent will bring a powerful array of subject matter expertise and skills, including extensive experience scaling major IT systems. This effort is being marshaled as part of a cross-functional team that is working aggressively to diagnose parts of HealthCare.gov that are experiencing problems, learn from successful states, prioritize issues, and fix them."
Senator Rubio said on "Fox & Friends" that he plans to introduce a bill delaying the requirement that all uninsured adults purchase health insurance, asking, "How are you going to go after people next year ... if the thing you're forcing them to buy isn't available to buy?"
By saying the federal government is "going to go after people", Rubio is referring to a $95 tax penalty (in 2014) for most people who don't get insured. And with technical glitches to the federal exchange website expected to be fixed in about a month, or sooner, the senator's concern that "the thing you're forcing them to buy isn't available to buy" doesn't jibe with the fact that the tax penalty won't be an issue until next April.
Meanwhile, what may be getting lost in all the media coverage and partisan political outcry over the website dysfunction is the ongoing success of in-place Affordable Care Act insurance reforms including:
- No more preexisting condition coverage exclusions
- No more lifetime caps on medical bills paid by insurance
- Free preventive care screenings for deadly diseases
- Reduction (ultimately elimination) of Medicare RX "doughnut hole
- Continuing family coverage for young adults till age 26
While acknowledging the website's problems and outlining a comprehensive set of solutions, President Obama did his best in a speech yesterday to underline the law's already estimable successes, and to stress the "Big Picture":
"Let me remind everybody that the Affordable Care Act is not just a website."
But for the time being, because the long-term health of national health reform depends on insuring almost all uninsured Americans, ongoing enrollment obstacles at HealthCare.gov will continue to grab most of the headlines until they are effectively overcome.