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Carol Costa: Click Here… Oops: Obamacare’s Legit Problem

Thursday, October 24, 2013

 

The Obamacare rollout hasn't gone as planned, but the President needs to bounce back...and soon.

Welcome to Healthcare.gov

“We know using HealthCare.gov has been frustrating for many Americans. The initial consumer experience of HealthCare.gov has not lived up to the expectations of the American people. We are committed to doing better…..” 

This is the first piece of correspondence you read on the new Healthcare Insurance Blog which is a part of the healthcare.gov website….YIKES! This rollout was a disaster for sure. As the GOP was sucking the air out of DC with the defunding circus, the so called “Obamacare” website was quietly becoming an unmitigated catastrophe. Well now that the patchwork solution to the debt ceiling and the shutdown is in place (at least for a while), the website problems are coming to the forefront. And, the refocused and salivating GOP is taking aim at the juicy low hanging fruit. I ask candidly; are they aiming to help Americans have better, broader, and more affordable access to healthcare or once again simply to assail President Obama? I lean toward the latter. But, that does not mean I am not very disappointed in the healthcare website rollout. President Obama is correct; it is more than a website. But he and his administration need to get it right, NOW.

Any rollout is usually a very carefully planned event. Whether it is to unveil a new piece of equipment at the local gym or Tesla Motors to present a new state of the art car battery, it is a one-and-done venture. You remember what your mama used to tell you, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Or was that advice from Head and Shoulders? I’m not exactly sure. The “rollout” is a PR tool designed to showcase product, person or service and inspire confidence in the public, to make a sale, to make a splash, to earn believers and ultimately boost the bottom line. In the aftermath of a rollout, any PR person worth their salt never wants to put the CEO out front and center to make explanations and/or excuses, or heaven forbid have the President of the United States giving out -800 numbers. I can almost guarantee this will be a case study in “how not to do a rollout” in future PR guides. For now it is time to move forward.

Healthcare, good…website, bad

Make no mistake, I am a fan of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), as it has the potential to provide healthcare to millions of Americans who until this landmark legislation have had little or no hope of obtaining healthcare. The success of the ACA rests largely in the insurance purchased by millennials. Millennials are the younger and healthier generation such that if and when they sign up they will help to pay for the aging folks who need more care, similar to Social Security where today’s workers pay for tomorrow’s retirees. We need them now and one day they will need the next generation of whippersnappers, you know leveling out the risk pool going forward. According to Fortune Magazine, “There are currently 17 million uninsured millennials now eligible to get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Only 5% claim they do not want or need health insurance, according to some polls.” This also means 95% of them are interested. So having this rollout stumble out of the gate can have long reaching impact. Millennials live on their devices; they text, Tweet, Facebook and do commerce chiefly online. Do the math; if they are the backbone of the system’s long tern success, screwing up this rollout was a big error. I am confident they will return but it begs the questions; will they return in enough time and in enough volume to achieve the promised reduced premiums and cost savings? Only time will tell.

A Test…

While pondering these issues I decided to log on and see what happened. At the RI exchange website I was able to log in and browse a menu of 10 health care plans and 4 dental plans within 2 minutes. It was simple and working. In Massachusetts I was treated to the Mass Healthcare Connector a user-friendly and comprehensive portal with a plethora of options and information. Both Massachusetts and Rhode Island should be very proud of the work done to get the exchanges up and ready. I also logged on to Healthcare.gov and the system worked efficiently processing my request to see plans in both Mass and RI. Let us hope while I am browsing the beta testing is happening. The Administration just announced it is bringing in top economic advisor Jeffrey Zients to oversee the website repairs. That is good news.

A note from a boomer…

I have memories of being 3 months past my college graduation and my parents telling me, “Get going! Get a job with healthcare and benefits; you will shortly be off our plan.” Back in '82 I was on the hunt for employment and looked mightily for a position with benefits (per my parents' advice and urging). At each interview I asked my question, “Do you have Blue Cross, and can I get on the plan?” Seriously, I considered only jobs that would allow coverage in a healthcare plan. I remember how that weighed on my parents, when they could no longer carry me on their healthcare plan. Health care and access to it must never again be a contributing factor in shaping any person’s career path. I do not want that for the millennials in my life. Go out get a job you LOVE! But then make certain you go to Healthcare.gov and get a policy usually only $49.00 per month and have at the world. And, if you are a code and website genius call the Department of Health and Human Services ask for Secretary Sebelius and get in the game. Fix this thing so more of your friends can get healthcare and in turn take care of more folks who need the coverage.

 

Carol Costa is a public relations and community outreach specialist; she has experience in both the public and private sectors. She is the Chairwoman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee and has extensive community affairs and public relations experience. She previously served in the Rhode Island Judiciary for nearly 17 years. Carol also enjoyed a successful development stint at the Diocese of Providence as Associate Director for Catholic Education and is currently a public housing manager. Her work has been published in several local outlets including GoLocal, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.

 

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