Bar higher for law in 2nd sign-up season under Obamacare
WASHINGTON — With a bright look to its rebuilt website, version 2.0 of President Obama’s health insurance overhaul represents another chance to win over a skeptical public.
But more than possible computer woes lurk as HealthCare.gov‘s second open enrollment season begins Saturday.
The risks include an unproven system for those renewing coverage and a tax hit that could sting millions of people. Those tax issues are the result of complications between the health care law and income taxes, and they will emerge during next year’s filing season.
“Things will not be perfect,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, trying to set expectations. “We are aiming for a strong consumer experience, and it will be better.”
The Obama administration cannot afford to repeat last year’s online meltdown. Congress will be entirely in Republican hands in 2015, and GOP lawmakers will be itching to build the case for repeal. The Supreme Court’s decision Friday to hear another challenge to the law is casting a shadow, too.
The health insurance exchanges offer taxpayer-subsidized private coverage to people who do not have access on the job. HealthCare.gov will serve 37 states; the rest run their own markets.
This sign-up period will be the first time that renewal has been tried for current customers, and it overlaps with the first tax-filing season during which the law’s requirements are in effect.
On the plus side, premium increases are expected to be modest in many, though not all, states. New insurers have come into the market, promoting competition.
The online application for most new customers is down to 16 screens from 76, and website security is better, thanks to aggressive monitoring.