Obamacare Exchange: Politics Before Useability

Avik Roy notices something significant in a report by the Wall Street Journal. One of the reasons the federal exchange doesn’t work is because HHS was worried about people’s reactions to the pricing.

One of the complaints that kept popping up on the Healthcare.gov Facebook page was the fact that you needed to log in to the site in order to browse for plans. That meant that until your account was verified and working the site was useless. As many people (including some at the NY Times) have learned, it is nearly impossible to get your account working.

But as Avik Roy points out, this wasn’t always how the site was intended to work:

“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” report Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal.
Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure
that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could
help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” (Emphasis added.)

In other words, the architecture of the website was built around public relations. The administration did not want people to see the price associated with health plans they were being forced to buy unless it could also show them the subsidy they would get to buy them. Political optics trumped useability.

Think about it. It’s quite possible that much of this disaster could
have been avoided if the Obama administration had been willing to be
open with the public about the degree to which Obamacare escalates the
cost of health insurance. If they had, then a number of the problems
with the exchange’s software architecture would have been avoided. But
that would require admitting that the “Affordable Care Act” was not
accurately named.

Again, I love this comment which was left on the Healthcare.gov Facebook page “Go
to ehealthinsurance.com and check rates. They will be the same, just
without the subsidy for those who qualify for that. Hold onto your hat