Uncertainty greets start of Obamacare
Widely reported technical glitches and uncertainty over how a new influx of insured patients would affect the local medical business greeted the Alaska version of the Federal government’s new health insurance exchange program.
Users seeking to enroll in the exchange via the Federal government website http://www.healthcare.gov were allowed to create an account, however, the transition from the Federal site to the State-specific site Enroll Alaska were greeted with a simple page reading “Downstream Error” most of the weekend. The site was temporarily disabled over the weekend to deal with technical glitches.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, is designed to lower health insurance costs by increasing the total number of insured, and also through the creation of marketplace exchanges, which allow providers to compete to provide insurance for individuals and families.
The exchanges were opened for business Oct. 1, though technical glitches have plagued many enrollees in states outside Alaska.
In Wrangell, hospital officials said it wasn’t immediately clear how an influx of newly insured Alaskans would impact the publicly owned Wrangell Medical Center, said CEO Marla Sanger, who attended a conference this week dealing at least in part with the new program.
“In two days of meetings discussing those things, the main answer right now is we don’t know,” she said. “In terms of the financial aspects, it’s different for every institution. Lots of organizations are in the same situation, if not all.”
The Medical Center was hoping to bring more light to the subject soon, Sanger said.
“We’re hoping to get someone from (Enroll Alaska) down to do a community-wide presentation soon,” she said.
The Alaska chapter of the Better Business Bureau was urging consumers to beware of potential scams associated with the new program, in particular to watch out for people going door-to-door or claiming to represent the program over the phone. While the geography of Southeast makes it unlikely that such scams would bear much fruit, caution was advisable, said Adam Harkness, the bureau’s public relations manager.
“We just wanted to make sure that our little corner of the world was protected,” he said.
The program is still enrolling new insurance customers at http://www.healthcare.gov, and more information is available at http://www.enrollingalaska.com.