, Salem, MA


November 14, 2013

Watson: Health care law aims for cost savings

This is a column about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — eventually — is likely to accomplish two worthy things: extend medical insurance coverage to almost everybody in the nation now without it and help the entire medical care industry — in all its many facets — continue to focus harder and harder on the task of reining in ever-escalating medical costs.

But first, we need to acknowledge and lament two lousy realities. Most obviously, the federal website — on which citizens are meant to shop and sign up for medical insurance — is a mess. The site’s computer software programs, its intended logic and links, and its data sharing, coordination and management functions had not been sufficiently sorted and readied before the site went active.

On top of those problems, the sheer number of visitors to the site overloaded and made worse the technical deficiencies there.

There are non-sinister reasons for those shortcomings. And I don’t doubt that they’ll be fixed — although it may take weeks to complete the full troubleshooting. But even so, it is just plain exasperating that a website introduction with such a long-known launch date could be so botched.

The other aspect of the ACA’s introduction that has surprised and aggravated citizens — rightly so — is learning of the number of existing medical insurance policies that do not comply with the new law. Because noncomplying policies are being canceled by the insurance companies, a large number of people who had selected very limited and bare-bones coverage are now being required to purchase new, more comprehensive coverage. They will still have a private insurer, but they may have to pay more for their policies.

It doesn’t help that President Obama had repeatedly told the nation that those with insurance would see no change. Even if only a relatively small percentage of the population is affected, that absolute number is still significant.

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