Health Reform Weekly
A weekly compilation from Aetna of health care-related developments in Washington, D.C. and state legislatures across the country.
Week of October 7, 2013
The much–awaited launch of health insurance exchanges brought a surge of interest but little actual activity as the federal website was clogged with visitors and challenged by technological problems on its first day. Federal officials said more than 2.8 million visitors tried to access healthcare.gov, the exchange website for 36 states, causing significant delays and frustration for consumers shopping for coverage in the new marketplace. The amount of online traffic points to the potential demand exchanges could serve, providing a new coverage option for many of the nearly 50 million uninsured. “That gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans around the country,” President Obama said Tuesday. But many consumers found they were unable to enroll for insurance, due to the long delays on the websites and glitches in the calculations for federal subsidies.
While the issues facing the exchanges can be fixed, the rocky start gave critics the opportunity to question the readiness of federal government. The Washington Post noted that “the Obama administration gave critics arguing that the law isn’t ready for primetime more ammunition for their case.”
Washington is now preparing for a prolonged government shutdown, as House Republicans continue to demand that the nation’s new health-care law be delayed or repealed, and President Obama and the Democrats refuse to negotiate. House GOP leaders began pushing a new approach to end the stalemate, offering to fund some parts of the government — including national parks, veterans’ benefits and the D.C. government. The goal was to put Democrats in the spotlight by forcing them vote against programs that are popular among their constituents. Senate Democratic leaders and the White House quickly rejected the piecemeal strategy. In a series of votes, Democrats helped defeat the measures on the House floor, but the potential political damage is likely to pile up on both sides of the aisle as the shutdown lingers on.
As preparation for a long shutdown continue, Republicans will seek to tie federal funding and policy riders to ongoing negotiations around extending the U.S. debt limit, which is set to be