By Vanessa Obas
AMSA Health Policy Committee - National Policy Coordinator
Beneath the haze of the government shutdown, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) finally began its open enrollment for government-subsidized health insurance, and the implementation of the law has proven as difficult a road as its passage. In recent weeks, low and middle-income individuals and families experienced technical difficulties and outages with the federally-organized healthcare.gov website that has hindered many from enrolling in insurance plans. What’s more, many states, like my home state of Florida, have tried their hand at impeding plan enrollment in their opposition to the ACA. For instance, personnel have been trained to help Americans understand the health care law and navigate the marketplaces. However, in Florida, these navigators have been banned from working on the grounds of county health departments, restricting access to the already-limited number of navigators in the state.
The passage of the ACA demonstrated that the U.S. accepted what many developed countries had recognized long before: health care as a right not a privilege. Yet, the obstacles created by states like Florida, and the shortfalls of the federally-run healthcare.gov website, serve as reminders of the still-existing difficulty in achieving healthcare access for all. The success of open enrollment matters to millions of Americans – insured and uninsured. Many will find themselves needing to drop their existing, inadequate health care plans by January and enroll in plans that meet the newly established minimum standards of coverage. And, of course, there are the millions of Americans looking to the marketplace as their opportunity for less-expensive health care coverage. We can only hope the issues with enrollment will be addressed as even more citizens will need coverage during this period of open enrollment.