Thoughts from Launch Day of #Obamacare

Today, millions of Californians are now able to shop, compare, and buy affordable, high quality health insurance through Covered California, a new insurance marketplace where individuals, families and small business may get financial assistance to pay for health coverage. This brings us one step close to the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

HUGE INTEREST: As of 3pm, there were 17,000 calls and 5 million website hits. The huge interest and demand is a testament to how much these new reforms and benefits were needed, especially in California. Californians are more likely to be uninsured, more likely to be unable to afford coverage, and more likely to be denied for pre-existing conditions than residents of all but a few other states. The federal health law and Covered California directly addresses these issues, providing new coverage that is more affordable and available than before.

To the extent this demand led to longer waits for the call centers and slowed the website, we hope that the opening day crowds that swamped the systems but didn’t get to sign up today will come back before December 15th, the deadline to sign up for coverage to start on January 1, 2015.

What we will be looking for is what problems originated from first-day bugs and the spike of interest in opening day, and if specific issues persist throughout the week that need to be addressed.

A HISTORIC MOMENT: Today was a historic day when individual consumers buying health coverage are no longer all alone alone at the mercy of the big insurers, but now have new tools to compare and afford plans and get the best possible value. Starting today, consumers will no longer be denied or discriminated for pre-existing conditions. Starting today, consumers will no longer be befuddled trying to compare complex and confusing benefit packages that may leave them in a lurch. Starting today, consumers will no longer have to pay based on how sick they are, but rather on what they can afford, based on a percentage of income, on a sliding scale. These are transformational improvements.

ON THE SHUTDOWN: The other historic moment was the unforunate shutdown of the federal government as a tactic to attack the Affordable Care Act. Let’s be clear: while there’s no chance Obamacare will be defunded or delayed, but if it was, the results would be catastrophic in California. We already have hundreds of thousands of Californians on new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act, and our health system already has integrated these new consumer protections and improvements. Given all that California has done to implement and improve the health law, it is spectacularly irresponsible for any legislator of California to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act–much less threaten a government shutdown. California Representatives who voted this way should be ashamed.

Despite the rehashed debate and drama in Congress, the new health law is already in place and working here in California, with over one million Californians taking advantage of new coverage options made available because of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Millions already have new consumer protections and new security that their coverage will be there for them when they need it. Millions of California already got financial assistance or benefit from the law–from reduced rate hikes to rebates on their premium, from seniors getting help affording prescription drugs to small businesses getting a tax credit to cover their workers.

We need to move from the political debate to the practical benefit, so millions more benefit next year from the new options, benefits, and consumer protections. The more people we enroll, fewer people live sicker, die younger, and are one emergency away from financial ruin. For every person we don’t enroll, California leaves money in Washington, DC, rather than have those desperately-needed dollars come into our health system and economy.