New Castle News

Editorials

October 29, 2013

Our Opinion: Obamacare stumbles over the basics of signups

NEW CASTLE — Every new program is bound to have a few glitches.

But what’s happening right now with the nation’s new health insurance program and online signup efforts is disturbing. And it creates uncertainty regarding the entire concept of health care reform.

Considering this is President Obama’s signature domestic initiative, we would have expected something constructive with the first encounter many Americans had with what’s been dubbed Obamacare. Instead, a seemingly endless stream of reports have come out regarding the inability of average Americans to sign up for the health insurance they apparently want.

We suppose that’s one point in the president’s favor. Heavy use of the health insurance signup site indicates a real demand for the program he has championed. But like anything else, demand is meaningless if it doesn’t work properly.

The good news is that there is time for the tech folks to go back in and eliminate the bugs that have cropped up to give the public error messages and frozen screens. The bad news is that this episode falls in line with the views of critics, who have attacked Obamacare from the beginning as too bureaucratic, invasive and costly.

The inability to craft a website that properly directs people to where they want to go in this day and age is an example of incompetence. And last week’s House hearings on the matter produced little more than a round of finger pointing over who is at fault. It turns out a multitude of private contractors were involved in the assembly of this system.

What’s that old saying about too many cooks?

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, public sentiment about the new law has been, at best, unenthusiastic. You could blame incendiary Republican rhetoric and a tepid Democratic response for that, because surveys showed most Americans had no real knowledge of the law and what it involved.

Now, however, as more people encounter its mechanisms and receive little more than frustration as a result, there will be real consequences. And there will be real concerns that health care reform will be an ongoing mess.

The website debacle has given the GOP renewed ammunition in its demands to delay and/or defund Obamacare. While delays may be inevitable if people don’t have reasonable opportunities to sign up, killing health care reform remains an unrealistic option.

We continue to argue that the responsible move would be for Republicans to demand greater accountability, reliability and efficiency from the program — and be prepared to advocate future cost-saving measures if costs become real problems.

But calls to simply repeal Obamacare and replace it with some non-existent alternative won’t work. And if this reform falters, the next step is likely to be a national single-payer system. Is that what conservatives want?

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