When you launch a new health care program, such as the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare online, you should not depend entirely on computers.
Even though they are full of promise and raise sky high expectations, computer systems can have annoying and potentially devastating teething problems.
There is an enormous difference between launching a computer game for kids on the internet and inviting millions of adults into a labyrinth of glitches, forms and a myriad of jargon.
This month, the Obama administration launched an online marketplace where millions of people with no health care insurance can become insured.
So far, feedback from a significant percentage of people who have gone online and attempted to get themselves insured has not been good. Logging in has been challenging, and filling out forms even more so.
Those who did manage to get through a couple of initial stages faced other problems while government agencies failed again and again to communicate with each other online.
According to the Financial Times “Few people appeared to have enrolled.”
Tea party helped camouflage Obamacare online mess
Little did the Republican party, and in particular its Tea Party members realize what a huge favor they have done for the Obama administration and the Obamacare online launch of the health insurance marketplace.
The government shutdown, Congress squabbling and massive media focus on a looming American default, steered attention away from the online nightmare for millions of Americans trying to find health insurance.
Obamacare online opponents have tried, mostly in vain, to point attention towards the inconvenience people are having to go through as proof that the whole thing might be a bad idea. Nobody has been listening to them over the past two weeks because the media had other headline priorities.
Obamacare’s public appeal
To be given a two-week grace period (and perhaps longer) to sort out computer glitches and resolve initial teething problems has been an unexpected Godsend for those who were given the task of setting up the system.
Even today, with the shutdown over and Congress retreating from the credit default cliff, media focus will take a while before it starts drawing people’s attention to the online problems faced by uninsured Americans trying to fathom what to do in the online health insurance marketplace.
The glitches and sources of frustration may soon be resolved and the public appeal of Obamacare is likely to grow.
There are over 50 million people in the United States with no health care coverage at all. Most other advanced economies spend much less than the U.S. on health care and nearly everybody is covered.
In the UK, which spends just over 8% of its GDP on health care, everybody is covered by the National Health Service. The U.S. spends 17.4% of GDP on health care, has over 50 million people with no coverage at all and many tens of millions more with inadequate insurance cover.
In Japan, which spends less than 9% of GDP on health care, people live nearly ten years longer than Americans.
Since the year 2000, the United States has fallen behind other advanced economies in infant mortality, life expectancy, teenage pregnancies and several other healthcare statistics. In 2011, the U.S. was in fiftieth place globally regarding life expectancy.
Both allies and enemies of Obamacare have no choice but to agree on one thing. America spends too much on health care and gets very poor value for money compared to the other rich nations.
Fifty million people have been offered a better chance of better survival, and they will take it.
Why launch Obamacare online?
Why did the creators of Obamacare launch the whole thing online? It was not necessary. Old fashioned pen and paper would have worked too. At least then people would have another option if going online became too frustrating, confusing or simply impossible.