THE successful launch of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange in Olympia stands in sharp contrast to the high-tech turmoil in the other Washington.
Millions of Americans want and need health insurance, including a Spokane woman who joined President Obama on Monday, but epic frustrations drained the joy out of the moment.
The federal government has spent nearly $400 million to build the national health-care exchange, but all the money, time and development did not prevent massive problems.
Only the harshest opponents of the Affordable Care Act refuse to acknowledge the scale of the challenge. The federal system is verifying applicant income from federal sources and interfacing with local Medicaid and record systems in 33 states, which include some openly hostile to Obamacare.
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Still, a program with the highest expectations, and need, must deliver.
Even Washington state’s homegrown system, wahealthplanfinder.org
, had its own glitches the first 48 hours. Intense troubleshooting resolved issues with pages loading and applicants running out of computer time to complete their forms.
Since Oct. 1, 35,500 state residents have enrolled, and an additional 70,000 have applied with payment pending.
The federal website: 476,000 applications, no enrollment numbers released.
The launch of our state’s system had the support of lawmakers and the governor. All that helps. But the Healthplanfinder website was also designed to be easy to use, with access and review like a familiar online-shopping experience.
The federal system needs to be mindful of its customers and match consumer expectations.
The other Washington had understandable troubles with sheer traffic volume. But massive interest was expected and desired, and should have been accommodated.
President Obama delivered a plan that was endorsed by Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Now make it work. No excuses.
If schedules, deadlines and penalties need to be adjusted as technical glitches are fixed, do that as well.