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A troubled start for Obamacare

Posted: October 7, 2013 - 12:00am

The following editorial appeared in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday, Oct. 3:

No, this isn’t an argument for killing Obamacare, no matter how much the tea party wing of the Republican Party might howl. Obamacare is here to stay, and it will help people who otherwise can’t get insurance.

But ... the ... computers ... have ... to ... work.

Folks trying to sign up for insurance coverage faced a second day of frozen websites on Wednesday — a serious problem and a deep embarrassment for the government.

It needs to get fixed, and the bureaucrats need to stop making excuses.

For the second day Wednesday, the Wisconsin exchange remained glitchy. The problem was worse on the federal system, which is operating exchanges for 34 states.

On opening day, Tuesday, the portal for the marketplace — healthcare.gov — was not functioning, according to groups helping the uninsured to sign up.

The administration had worried that the online marketplaces would have problems in the early going, so the outages weren’t exactly a surprise.

But officials seemed to be trying to understate the problems. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Guy Boulton reported, federal officials insisted Tuesday that they had fixed things, which included problems with security questions when consumers signed onto the website.

“That’s one of the glitches in the system that we solved earlier today,” said Marilyn Tavenner, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Well, no. A reporter noted that the glitch was still happening. Tavenner also claimed consumers had signed up using the federal website, but she wouldn’t provide numbers.

The Congressional Budget Office is estimating that 7 million people will sign up for coverage through the private health plans sold on the exchanges.

People without affordable health insurance may be able to get federal tax credits (applicable at the time of purchase) to help fund the cost of a plan. To get coverage on Jan. 1, customers have to sign up by Dec. 15. Open enrollment period runs through March 31.

It’s an unfortunate start for a program that holds so much promise for the uninsured. The government needs to do better.

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