Some two weeks after the health insurance marketplace went live, the first rush of interest appears to have waned — dampened, most likely, by well-documented and persisting computer problems that have snarled the registration process and further complicated the massive undertaking. An independent analysis reported by the Washington Post this week indicated the number of visits to the federal website for the marketplace, healthcare.gov, has dropped off sharply, by 88 percent since the launch. The optimistic view would be that frustrated consumers have decided to bide their time and wait until the feds work out the kinks and the application begins to perform smoothly as promised.
But if the technology challenges have been amply demonstrated, the level of early interest in the promise of the insurance exchange has made equally clear that millions of Americans, an estimated 9 million to 14 million in traffic on the federal site alone, are counting on the exchanges to work efficiently, providing them options for health coverage they haven’t found elsewhere.
Yet as late as September, the Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll reported high percentages of people (67 percent of the uninsured and 51 percent of the general public) lack basic information and do not know enough about the health law to say how it might affect their families. There is a recognized and urgent need to inform Ohio’s 1.5 million uninsured and the thousands more who may be seeking more affordable coverage. There is an opportunity to rev up awareness of the options in the lull between the first blush of interest and publicity and the fixes to the federal platform.
It remains a grave disservice that Ohio’s political leadership washed its hands of a state-operated exchange and refused financial support, leaving it to minimally funded organizations and agencies to fill the void as best they can with few resources. It is to the credit of the city of Akron and Summit County that they are collaborating, through Summit County Public Health, to help consumers navigate the enrollment process.