My Experience with Obama(doesn't)care
The web designers will tell you: when it comes to websites, good design can't mask bad ideas.
I've been thinking about that for the last six weeks as I've confronted, with waning trust morphing into enraged frustration, the remarkably complicated corridors of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (popularly known as "Obamacare"). The problems in the roll-out of this ersatz reform are generally known and, depending on who's talking, have led to irritated calls for fixes or have been cited as proof that anything the government does that is socially responsible is a communist-inspired train wreck.
After nearly 20 years of Internet work, I know that all major web-based projects launch with problems, some of them crippling, and I know they can all be fixed. There is nothing extraordinary about Obamacare's website problems except the shrill reaction they've provoked. This is to be expected. The "looks good, sounds good but can't do anything right" tag that underlies the controversy is one of racism's trustiest refrains and this is a President who has been battered by those kinds of comments.
But dwelling on the technical side of the web-site break-down is a mistake because it draws attention from the more important problem unmasked by the roll-out and the complexity of these websites: Obamacare isn't a health-care program, it's a corporate bail-out. It's not about avoiding or treating people's health problems, it's about avoiding and treating the collapse of the insurance industry.
The websites have run into problems because they are a kind of "Amazon" for health care and they weren't ready to do that. Soon they will be ready and the technological problems will disappear but the most important social problem -- a health care system that has nothing to do with caring for people's health -- will remain.
My own experience, a frightening and painful process, demonstrates this truth. I am 64 years old, a member of the demographic group that most needs Obamacare, and I am not being allowed into the program. Let me tell you the story, starting with a bit of background.
I live in New York and our state is a full participant in the ACA: we have a marketplace, our own website system (called "New York State of Health"), a help system...everything the President wants us to have. While I'm still functional, energetic and in otherwise decent health, I have a few conditions that require medication which I take, in large quantities, every day. I take the pills, I'm fine. I don't, I get sick. Their cost, without insurance, is prohibitive. I need insurance and my current insurance will expire at the end of December. Since Obamacare will take on most of my insurance company's customers, it is now not cost-effective for my insurer to continue offering non-ACA insurance. So, because of Obamacare, they're canceling my policy at the year's end. I'm currently on Social Security (my only source of income) but I can't get Medicare until March, 2014 when I turn 65.