Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Procrastination is not rejection

  Two million enrollments in the Affordable Care Act insurance program on the final day it was available should not have come as a surprise. The crush to meet the March 31 signup deadline exposed the incessant drumbeat against Obamacare for the political ploy that it is.
    In 2009, an estimated 40 million Americans were without insurance. Despite nearly three years of political wrangling between emboldened Republicans and terrified Democrats, plus dozens of pointless votes to repeal the ACA, voters have essentially taken a wait-and-see attitude about the law.
    A recent Washington Post survey found citizens evenly split, with 49 percent approving of the law while 49 percent do not. That’s somewhat surprising, given the gargantuan effort made to discredit the law and President Obama who signed it.
    Many Americans who needed insurance did not wait. When the insurance exchanges opened on Oct. 1, 2013, the rush to sign up online temporarily overwhelmed hastily developed technology and procedures. Americans knew they needed coverage or recognized that the insurance they already had contained major gaps in coverage.
    Failure to adequately plan for that onslaught might have been at least partly to blame for the massive anti-Obamacare campaign that rolled through the zeitgeist after the 2010 elections.
    Detractors’ refusal to acknowledge the reality of the affordable health insurance program and their constant carping seemed to gain steam in the run-up to this latest deadline. Administration officials tried to reduce any political fallout by predicting that the newly insured would number only 5 million, rather than the 7 million originally forecast.
    What all the prognostication failed to take into account, however, is the completely reliable tendency of people to wait until the last minute to take on a task they aren’t wild about, even if doing so will produce something they want. How different, after all, was this deadline from April 15? The crush of last-minute filing of tax returns happens year after year, despite the fact that some of those late-filing taxpayers will actually get money back.
    More than 7 million Americans have now moved beyond procrastination to actually take advantage of health insurance they can afford. This program, like any, will need some modification. New processes will be developed. But the ACA is here to stay, and it is time for elected officials, on the state and national stages, to move on and to let the program work.

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