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TONY WILSON: Health care Exchange remains elusive to citizens

Tony Wilson

Tony Wilson

WASHINGTON D.C.— I find it ironic that as I write this, just miles from America’s decision-making heartbeat, I still cannot log into the federal government’s healthcare.gov website. We are at two weeks and counting.

As I’ve mentioned previously, I can browse the site and read about any number of topics related to health care reform and what the law will do for me. However, I’m afraid once I log in what the law will do to me when I see the plan options available along with the rates for my family.

Oct. 1 marked the official rollout of the much-anticipated health insurance exchange for Georgians and citizens in 30-plus other states. The exchange is also referred to as the Federally Facilitated Marketplace, and it is the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The FFM is a Web portal (www.healthcare.gov) that allows Georgians another option when purchasing health insurance coverage. Well, it would allow Georgians another option if the site actually worked.

I, and countless others that I’ve heard from, have seen the messages “The system in down at the moment,” “The webpage cannot be found” and “Sorry, health insurance marketplace Live Chat isn’t available right now.”

Detractors say the exchange isn’t ready for prime time. Proponents say be patient.

I say just get the website working.

I’ve seen news reports where administration officials have asked people to keep trying, especially since open enrollment runs through March 31, 2014. That is somewhat deceiving, and here’s why.

In order to be covered on Jan. 1, you must enroll by Dec. 15. If you enroll on March 31, your coverage will not be effective until May 1.

I fear in an effort to put a positive spin on the glitch website rollout, that officials are leaving people with the impression they have until March 31 to sign up for coverage and that it will be effective back to Jan. 1. It will not.

Under the law, you can be uninsured for up to three months in 2014 before the individual mandate penalty is assessed. If someone waits until March 31 to sign up — because that’s what government officials keeping touting — and then the coverage isn’t effective until May 1, the person is now uninsured for four months. Hello, penalty.

I haven’t heard the talking heads on the Sunday news shows point that out.

We hear from the federal officials that the website has had so many visitors that it has caused the glitches. Reports are that on the first day healthcare.gov was open 2.8 million unique visitors checked out the site.

Let’s look at the numbers of other popular sites: According to Google, the website answers more than 1 billion (with a B) questions per day. YouTube states that it has more than 1 billion (again with a B) unique visitors to its site per month. One out of every thee Americans visit Facebook daily. (Probably to read my witty comments and view my hilarious pictures.)

I have very few glitches when I visit those websites.

Amazon — the site often used as a comparison in explaining how healthcare.gov will work — averages more than 8 million unique visitors per day. I don’t have any issues with the Amazon website — as evidenced by my monthly credit card statement.

Just a final thought. As we walked the National Mall and encountered barricade after barricade — which I may or may not have moved — at the various outdoor monuments, I wondered if our time, energy and our tax dollars could be better spent, at least in some small way, to get healthcare.gov fully functional.

I know. It’s a crazy thought in one of the most dysfunctional places on the planet.

Questions or comments? Feel free to e-mail me at twilson@nfp.com.

Tony L. Wilson is a partner with NUVISION Financial Corporation based in Conyers. NUVISION is a subsidiary of National Financial Partners Corp. (NFP), which provides benefits solutions for companies.