If you are looking for ground zero in the fight against the Affordable Care Act (ACA), it is right here in Georgia.
Some of the state’s top Republicans have made stopping the program, known informally as Obamacare, the ultimate goal of their political career.
Nathan Deal hates the program so much that when he was running for governor in 2010, he delayed his resignation from the U.S. House so that he could vote one more time against final passage of the ACA.
Deal declined to have Georgia participate in running the insurance exchange where consumers are supposed to shop online for health insurance coverage. Deal also turned down more than $3 billion a year in federal funding that would be readily available to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income families.
Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens hasn’t just criticized Obamacare, he’s tried to blow up the program by blocking the efforts of the navigators who are supposed to help consumers handle the intricacies of the insurance exchanges.
“We’re doing everything in our power to be an obstructionist,” Hudgens boasted in a recent speech.
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger) was in the thick of the battle when he sponsored several measures that would have allowed the federal government to remain operating after Sept. 30 only if the healthcare act was defunded.
Although the Republican-controlled House passed Graves’ defunding measures, they were voted down in the Democratic-controlled Senate and buried in the congressional graveyard. Obamacare was still in operation even while the federal government was shut down.
The unsuccessful moves by politicians like Graves, Rep. Paul Broun and Rep. Phil Gingrey to defund the healthcare act were part of a desperate attempt to prevent the launch of the insurance exchanges, a major component of the healthcare law, before their Oct. 1 start date.
I never could understand their desperation. If Obamacare is really as flawed as they say, then Graves and his cohorts should allow the act to take effect and let it collapse of its own weight. They could then use the failure of the program as a potent issue in next year’s elections.
I am one of those who tried to sign up for coverage on the federally-operated insurance exchange. Because I am not covered by a group health insurance plan, I have only been able to buy an individual policy that provides poor coverage at a ruinous premium.
It’s the only policy the private insurance market would deign to offer me, so I thought I might find more reasonably-priced coverage through the online insurance exchange.
I spent many hours at my computer after Oct. 1 trying in vain to determine what rates were being offered and how I could sign up for coverage. I failed utterly. Every attempt to review the rates offered by the insurers resulted in a computer crash, or by my being thrown off the system entirely.
As for actually obtaining a health insurance policy, it was clear after many failed efforts that it wasn’t going to happen. It seemed as if the insurance exchanges were set up to make sure people like me would never get through and find coverage.
It’s amazing, really. We have a federal agency, the NSA, that has enough computer power to monitor every one of your phone calls, read every email you send, and track every search you conduct on Google. But the Department of Health and Human Services cannot provide a computer system capable of doing such simple things as allowing you to get online and check health insurance rates.
I know I’m not the only person who has encountered these problems. Computer crashes seemed to be the standard operating procedure during the first week of the health insurance exchanges.
I hope that uninsured consumers are somehow able to obtain health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, because millions of them can’t get coverage through the traditional private market.
Based on my own experiences, however, I’m not sure if the healthcare act is going to be the solution to that problem.
If the federal government does not find a computer system that works — and quickly — then Nathan Deal, Ralph Hudgens and Paul Broun may very well be the ones who declare victory on this issue.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report, an Internet news service at gareport.com that reports on government and politics in Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.