(AP) – After more than a week in action, is a key feature of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul a success or a bust? Judging by the dearth of data, it’s impossible to say.
The federal government has released no comprehensive data on how many people have enrolled for health insurance using federally run exchanges, the online marketplaces being used in 36 states for residents to compare and buy insurance. In the 14 states running their own exchanges, the situation isn’t much better.
Officials with California’s exchange say it will be mid-November until they can say how many people signed up. In Oregon and Colorado, the number of completed applications is zero. And in Minnesota, which billed itself as a leader in implementing the Affordable Care Act, data won’t be released until next week.
As a result, a nation obsessed with keeping score to determine winners and losers is finding it difficult to pass immediate judgment on a law that will in large part define the president’s legacy.
“Obamacare has a lot of cynics in this country, and it needs to get off to a better start than what we see so far if it’s going to be a success,” said Bob Laszewski, a Washington, D.C.-based health-care industry consultant.
Laszewski suspects the lack of data conceals an extremely slow start due to widely reported technical problems.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is overseeing the federally run exchanges, doesn’t expect to release enrollment data until mid-November. But scattered reports from those states aren’t encouraging. For example, Delaware had yet to confirm a single enrollment by Thursday, and many Florida groups designated to help people sign up say they still can’t complete the enrollment process online.
The Obama administration has worked feverishly to fix the website delays, frozen screens and other glitches that they attributed to the high level of consumer interest, not software or design issues. But independent experts said it’s probably a combination of all those factors, noting that a high volume of users tends to expose software issues undetected by testing.
The federal exchanges, for instance, require users to create accounts before they can browse for insurance plans, adding to website volume. Most e-commerce sites and several state-run health insurance marketplaces allow consumers to window-shop without an account.