Like the proverbial sword of Damocles, the Obamacare deadline looms. Today is the last day to sign up…sort of. I’ll explain that momentarily.
First, let’s look at the proverb mentioned above, lest there be any misunderstanding. As classics scholar Daniel Mendelsohn says, there is often confusion as to exactly what this allusion means.
The real point of the story is very clearly a moral parable. It’s not just, oh, something terrible is going to happen, but it’s about realizing that what looks like an enviable life, a life of wealth, a life of power, a life of luxury is, in fact, fraught with anxiety, terror and possibly death.
I cannot think of a more apt description of what is facing the Obama administration regarding health care. In the U.S. today, almost 49 million people are uninsured. The plan was, of course, to get all those folks insured under Obamacare. Yet, less than 2 percent of those eligible have enrolled. And today is the deadline to enroll. Sort of. You can start the enrollment process today, and the government will give you until next week to complete the process. Unless they extend the deadline again. Despite the “hard and fast” date of March 31, it has become clear to the White House that this simply isn’t going to work.
And if you think Obama and his team are frustrated, wait until you hear what insurers and ordinary folks have to say:
In Pennsylvania, agent Angie Surra of St. Mary’s Insurance said the site was so glitchy “you can’t get anything done.” A big problem: Surra couldn’t set up a new account for a client. The first time she tried, it wouldn’t let them log in. After a password reset, the site locked her out and she had to send the client home. It reminded her of the site’s glitchy first days last October.
The website experience itself continues to be hit-or miss (did I mention it was down today?), which only increases consumer resentment.
David Oscar, an insurance broker whose company manages health policies for 2,000 small businesses and 600 individuals in New Jersey, said his customers are complaining about all parts of the process.“It’s insane out there,” Oscar said. “Customers still can’t get through the federal marketplace and the insurance systems can’t keep up with the demand. People are upset, angry and frustrated.”
One of the biggest problems is that young people – the ones Obama has been banking on to bolster the health care system – have stayed away in droves. Maybe they just hated the idiotic ads (the keg-stand guys, Pajama Boy, nagging moms), or maybe they found out what a raw economic deal they were getting.
There is no way the administration can put a good “spin” on this. Obamacare is a dud. It promised much (reform, lower costs for consumers, ability to keep what you like, an economic boost to the nation) and has delivered little. Like Damocles’ sword, there was a pledge of greatness; now there’s only anxiety and a sense of doom.