16,000 Iowans float in ObamaCare limbo
According to the Des Moines Register, the current status of about 16,000 Iowa residents stands at: IRKED. Some of them may already have upgraded their alert status to PEEVED. Consider the example of CROSS (Chronic ObamaCare Snafu Syndrome) sufferer Bill Douglas, who desperately requires eye surgery for glaucoma:
Douglas thought he’d finally have health insurance this week to pay for the procedure, but his application and those of nearly 16,000 other Iowans are snagged in a last-minute foul-up between the state and federal governments.
Douglas, 62, was discouraged by a notice last weekend that it could take another six weeks for state officials to deliver an answer about his application, which he initially filed in November. With his insurance situation still in limbo, he called his ophthalmologist’s office to cancel an appointment for an initial assessment for the laser procedure, which would treat his glaucoma.
The Des Moines resident is among the thousands of Iowans whom the state told Friday to reapply for coverage on Iowa’s Medicaid website.
The Register’s account breezes through what must have been an incredibly frustrating couple of months for Douglas – who, like most of America, didn’t think Barack Obama would spend a billion dollars to create an entirely non-functional website that would currently be in the dock as an act of blatant consumer fraud, if it had been created by the private sector – in order to reach the punch line:
The federal computer system was supposed to send the applicants’ information to a state system, so Iowa administrators could determine if the people were eligible for Medicaid or related public insurance programs. The coverage was supposed to start New Year’s Day. “I understand the law says I’m supposed to get some insurance, right?” Douglas said. “Believe me, I tried.”
Douglas faced common challenges in signing up on the balky healthcare.gov website, which is a key part of the Affordable Care Act. He made his first attempt on Oct. 1, the day the site launched and promptly crashed.
But he managed to get his application filed after federal officials patched the site in November, and he figured he soon would have insurance for the $4,600 laser procedure he needs to prevent blindness.
But the two government computer systems aren’t communicating properly, and state officials say they have not received sufficient information from the feds to determine which programs to place the 16,000 applicants in.
State officials say their federal counterparts failed to fulfill pledges to have the information transmitted in time. So Friday, the state sent emails to the 16,000 applicants, advising them to re-enter their information into the state’s Medicaid website.
At which point Mr. Douglas discovered the system didn’t recognize his ZIP code. He got past that, and was told it would take 45 days for the system to mull over his income information and decide whether he qualifies for Medicaid. He and the other Iowans trapped in this limbo can’t attempt to purchase one of those heavily subsidized ObamaCare policies until that determination is made.
You might think this is a terrible burden of uncertainty to place upon a man who needs surgery for glaucoma. Luckily, Iowa officials have carefully crafted a contingency plan to handle this unfortunate situation: go into a clinic and see if they’ll give you health care, even though you don’t have insurance coverage. Yes, they really said that.
Similar advice will likely be given to everyone trapped in limbo while the garbage ObamaCare system chokes on incomplete data and unprocessed payments. The Obama regime has already threatened insurance companies into extending the payment deadline halfway through January and granting retroactive coverage; the next “suggestion” will probably involve treating every insurance claim as valid until the mess gets straightened out, which apparently isn’t going to happen before the end of January, at least in Iowa. Isn’t central planning awesome?
ObamaCare’s architects could have been honest and said that they really just wanted a gigantic expansion of Medicaid, funded largely with federal dollars, and left the rest of the health care system alone. That would have avoided glitches like the one affecting these Iowans. But instead we got saddled with a disastrous top-down takeover of a complex system by ideologues and opportunistic politicians, who apparently thought the insurance industry was simple and easy to control.
This kept us from having an honest discussion about Medicaid, which is really not a program that was ready to handle hundreds of thousands of new beneficiaries. And it was all done to “fix” the problem of people without insurance coverage gobbling up hospital services. And what do you know – Harvard just published a new study that shows Medicaid enrollment actually makes this problem worse, as chronicled by the Washington Post:
The research, published Thursday in the journal Science, showed a 40 percent increase in emergency department visits among those low-income adults in Oregon who gained Medicaid coverage in 2008 through a state lottery. This runs counter to some health-care law supporters’ hope that Medicaid coverage would decrease this type of costly medical care, by making it easier for low income adults to see primary care providers.
“I would view it as part of a broader set of evidence that covering people with health insurance doesn’t save money,” says Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has also studied Oregon’s Medicaid expansion but is not affiliated with this study. “That was sometimes a misleading motivator for the Affordable Care Act. The law isn’t designed to save money. It’s designed to improve health, and that’s going to cost money.”
How long will it take before the experts start admitting that ObamaCare wasn’t “designed to improve health,” either? It was designed to expand government power. Anything else it does, or fails to do, is an entirely secondary concern.
Previous research on the Oregon Medicaid expansion has found that enrolling in the public program increased hospital visits, primary care trips and prescription drug use. That left an unanswered question: Were new Medicaid enrollees going their primary care doctor instead of the emergency department, or, were they using more of all types of health-care services?
This study suggests the latter answer: With financial barriers removed, Medicaid patients see their primary care doctor more — and also go to the emergency department at an increased frequency. Medicaid enrollees made, on average, 1.43 trips to the emergency department during the 18-month study period, compared to an average of 1.02 visits among those who entered the Medicaid lottery but did not gain coverage.
Medicaid coverage also increased the probability of having any visit to the emergency department by 7 percent. The researchers also looked at the types of visits and found no decline in use of the emergency department for primary care treatable conditions among those who had enrolled in Medicaid coverage.
What was sold to the American people as a brilliant exercise in superior government management is actually an insane cascade of “unexpected” failure and panic fixes, with virtually every aspect of the “law” suspended or rewritten on the fly. What was presented to us as a grand plan for improving access to health insurance is actually a massive expansion of a welfare program. The program was supposed to be largely voluntary, presenting minimal inconvenience to those who did not opt to participate (“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your plan, period”) but lives have been ruined as millions of Americans discovered that promise was false.
We were told forty or fifty million people were (literally) dying to get into ObamaCare, but enrollments are running well below half of projected levels – a crisis so severe that the Administration is still inventing fantasy enrollment numbers, while claiming its computer system doesn’t keep track of how many policies are paid and valid. We were told health care costs would be brought under control, but the Medicaid system into which so many ObamaCare applicants have been diverted doesn’t control costs. And even though the computer infrastructure of the system has supposedly been “fixed,” we still have an awful lot of people stuck in processing hell. Here’s another such story out of California: