The Affordable Care Act has endured many tests. Since being passed in 2009 by the Democratically controlled congress and signed into law by President Obama, it has arguably endured more scrutiny than any other piece of legislation in recent memory.
In the 2010 congressional midterm elections, Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives, but couldn't break the Democratic hold on the Senate.
The law survives.
During the summer of 2012, in one of the most closely watched sessions of the Supreme Court, by a narrow 5-4 majority, the Court found the law constitutional.
The law survives.
And in the fall of 2012, after months of campaigning and literally billions of dollars spent, President Obama is re-elected to a second term as President.
The law survives.
Like something out of an 8th grade social studies book, the Affordable Care Act survived tests from all three branches of our government. And yet, it wouldn't be until this very month, October 2013, that the Affordable Care Act would face its largest and most influential opponent: The American People.
October 1, 2013, was the launch date for Healthcare.gov, the website envisioned by the Affordable Care Act where individuals could register, shop for, and enroll in healthcare coverage. What was supposed to be a triumphant day for the Affordable Care Act turned out to be weeks of nightmarish stories about a doomed website. Literally you can turn on any cable news channel, and even most local news broadcasts, and there will be some story about flaws on the website and how Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, should resign because the website didn't work. Republicans are calling for extensions and delays to the implementation of the law. Computer techs are coming out of the woodwork offering their opinions and ideas on how to fix the website.
Since its launch at the beginning of October, I have intentionally stayed off the website. I figured it was the least I could do to not add to the traffic already slowing it down. But tonight, I caved. I went onto healthcare.gov and signed up.
I started by creating a log-in username and password. Then I put in my contact information. Then I put in my social security and income information. Then some more security questions and after about 15 minutes, I received an email stating I was approved to continue with enrollment. So, I went back to healthcare.gov and within just a few minutes, had 71 options for healthcare coverage. Different plans from different insurance companies. I was able to do side-by-side comparisons of all the plans that looked appealing to me. I could see what premiums were, how high the deductibles would be and what specifically each plan covered. There were links to the insurance companies' websites so you could further investigate what each plan offered. There were also links to find which physicians were networked with each plan. If I wanted to, I could print the comparisons and study them further to determine which plan was right for me.
Now, let's slam on the brakes, shall we? I'm employed by a decent-size healthcare corporation, and I have health insurance through my employer. I make a good amount of money, so I don't qualify for any government subsidies. The plans offered to me through the Affordable Care Act were more expensive than my current employer plan, so I won't be changing insurance companies. (I should note, several of the plans were fairly comparable to my employer's insurance, but still slightly more expensive).
I did this more as an exercise to see the functionality of the website. I have to admit, it was remarkably easy to use. The site didn't crash. The longest I waited for any page to load was maybe 5 seconds. The features on the website were very helpful and the overall design was pretty clean. Are there things I think could be better? Of course. But do I think we need to delay one of the most sweeping healthcare reform laws this country has ever seen, that has the potential to affect hundreds of millions of Americans and change the way individuals deal with insurance companies in both the public and private sectors, all because a website has been slow... a little dramatic, don't you think?
I will concede that I am fairly learned when it comes to computers and websites, so my experience on healthcare.gov may not have been typical. And I will grant that there are probably a bunch of people out there who have struggled to navigate the website or even get it to work. But I will end by saying this: We've never done anything like this in America before, nothing even remotely close to this scale and scope. It's big, very big. And there are going to be problems -- today, tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. But this isn't a reason to panic, run and hide, or back down. If you or someone you know has struggled with this website, my best advice is, don't get jaded and give into the pundits and politicians. Simply dust yourself off, and try again.