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Despite initial problems, new health care law deserves a chance

Oct 17, 2013 - The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

It's hard to tell which has done more to hurt the initial phase of the Affordable Care Act: continued Republican opposition or the inept rollout of the new law. To many citizens, the rollout problems -- which left millions unable to even log in to the system -- simply confirm opposition claims that Obamacare won't work.

That's wrong. Despite those initial problems, the Affordable Care Act is still a big step forward in reforming the nation's health care system, and we believe it will prove itself in the long run. It ensures that most of those now without health care insurance will get it. It removes onerous insurance requirements such as those involving pre-existing conditions. And it will even, contrary to some of the hysteria, help many small businesses provide health insurance for their employees, as James Surowiecki's the Financial Page column on The New Yorker's website noted.

The Obama administration had an opportunity with the rollout that started Oct. 1 to at least ease the concerns of critics and mitigate the propaganda. Instead, the website proved not ready for prime time.

That's a lost opportunity the Obama administration won't get back.

A national news article Sunday on the Obamacare rollout reported that "For the past 12 days, a system costing more than $400 million and billed as a one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance has thwarted the efforts of millions to simply log in. The growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House, which has refused to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange."

According to the New York Times article: "Confidential progress reports from the Health and Human Services Department show that senior officials repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time, blaming delayed regulations, a lack of resources and other factors."

And there's this: "One person familiar with the system's development said that the project was now roughly 70 percent of the way toward operating properly, but that predictions varied on when the remaining 30 percent would be done. 'I've heard as little as two weeks or as much as a couple of months,' that person said.

Others warned that the fixes themselves were creating new problems, and said that the full extent of the problems might not be known because so many consumers had been stymied at the first step in the application process."

That's the problem that will resonate through the next several months. Will people frustrated with trying to get into a system they need come back to it? If they don't, they and the country will lose out on the promise and potential of Obamacare.

The administration needs to fix the problems -- and fix them now-- so the system itself can have a chance to work.

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