With the first enrollment deadline of the new health-care-reform law just hours away, Americans scrambled to sign up for new coverage on Sunday as political figures in both parties continued to hammer the Obama Administration over its hobbled rollout of the law.
Consumers who want health insurance starting on Jan. 1 need to complete enrollment through the new online exchanges by midnight on Monday. After the problem-plagued launch of the federal exchange website in October, HealthCare.gov has been running better in recent weeks, and President Barack Obama said on Friday more than a million people had signed up for coverage on both federal and state-run exchanges in the first three weeks of December.
But with time running short for millions of uninsured Americans, many are picking the cheapest options available, the Associated Press reports, raising fears that the newly insured will face sticker shock when they seek medical care and find themselves forced to pick up much of the cost because of bare-bones coverage.
“It’s important to understand the total cost of ownership of a plan,” Matt Eyles, an executive with the market-analysis firm Avalere Health, told AP. “You just don’t want to look only at the premium.”
The last-minute rush comes amid a flurry of deadline delays and extensions by the Obama Administration and continuing political strife over the new law. Americans still have until late March to sign up for insurance before being subjected to the individual mandate’s tax penalty for not having coverage. But confusion still reigns for many.
“I am so deeply clueless about all of this,” Adrienne Matzen, a 29-year-old Chicago actress still looking for coverage, admitted to AP.
With the insurance industry expressing growing unrest at the numerous tweaks to implementation and their potential to cause chaos in the individual market, West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, who is seeking a one-year delay of the individual mandate, warned on Sunday of more trouble to come.
“If it’s so much more expensive than what we anticipated and if the coverage is not as good as what we had, you’ve got a complete meltdown,” he said on CNN’s State of the Union. “This transitional year gives you a chance to adjust the product for the market.”
“It falls under its own weight if the cost becomes more than we can absorb,” Manchin added.
Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and 2008 GOP presidential candidate still keeping his name in play for 2016, said on Sunday the law simply isn’t working. Speaking on Fox News Sunday, Huckabee said the law is “not working out very well,” and that the “arbitrary changes” being made by the Obama Administration are proof of that.