IT HAS BEGUN. RUN, RIGHT WING NUTS, RUN TO THE HILLS
And so, in spite of a government shutdown, the Affordable Care Act's signature program, the health insurance exchanges, opened today to the young, sick, utterly confused, and wondering-why-they-are-huddled masses. Under normal circumstances, we would examine how each insurance exchange system works, but given today is a very special day anyway, interesting times call for interesting measures. Thus, we slide down the ice headfirst with a blowtorch, and review/critique the various different state exchanges in place today.
STATES WITHOUT AN EXCHANGE (EG ILLINOIS): HealthCare.Gov
Many states lack a state-run health insurance exchange, including Illinois, Obama's stomping ground. So the federal government does it for you. Unfortunately, I do not get very far in the process, simply because things are moving too slow. Very much Washington bureaucracy at its finest, when you think about it. Then I get this message:
You picked a good day to shut down your government, America. WHERE'S TECH SUPPORT, YOU JERKS
Rating: 0 Government Shutdowns Out Of 5
OREGON: Cover Oregon
After a debut that looked like skits from hipster television show Portlandia, Cover Oregon now looks less twee and more professional looking. Which is good, because not everyone in Oregon lives in Portland, rides a bicycle, and drinks lattes with foam art made by people who should just be painters instead (or are, and just cannot sell). However, attempting to apply for insurance became a pointless endeavor: At this time, Cover Oregon does not allow you to apply for insurance online, instead guiding you to "agents" and "community partners" that will help you buy insurance. This will not help those needing insurance, especially those very scrappy hipsters who would rather chat all day on their iPhones and laptops than actually talk to a person face-to-face.
Rating: 1 Pair of Skinny Jeans Out of 5
CALIFORNIA: Covered California
You can tell this sign has been shopped by some of the pixels, and having seen some shops in your time.
The funky sounding name of California's health insurance exchange does not help matters (Covered? As in already-covered?), nor does the photoshopped sign. Still, Covered California is doing its best to make a case for its exchanges, with previews of plans among other things. However, even though the state capital of Sacramento is close to Silicon Valley, Covered California officials have failed to recognize that when you launch something like this, you should expect the server load to be extremely high, and thus the site is running slower than an America's Cup boat on waters with no wind. Covered California should know better than this. Plus, no dental plan.
Rating: 2 Aging Hippies Or Overtanned Rich People Out Of 5
MASSACHUSETTS: Health Connector
To be fair to everyone else, Massachusetts has been running a scheme like this for longer than anyone else. (Thanks, Mitt Romney, you're a peach!) Still, Health Connector has a very slick operation going for it. I was not able to get far in the system, but for good reason: Their health insurance database probably knows everyone who has moved into the state and gotten insurance or otherwise. (Massachusetts is the NSA, in case anyone's asking) Health Connector's whole setup looks solid, and they even offer the option of dental plans to go with insurance, though at an additional cost.
Rating: 4 Cahs Pahked in Hahvahd Yahd Out Of 5
RHODE ISLAND: HealthSource RI
The writer will not confirm nor deny the size of this image having to do with his thoughts on the state.
Surprisingly, my native state of Rhode Island actually has a solid system going for it right now through HealthSource RI. Surprising because Rhode Island has not had its act together since 2001, and I was pretty sure the state would be taken over by Massachusetts and Connecticut in a Poland-style partition by last year. Still, HealthSource RI is a pretty solid system, and guided me through the process, explaining what benefits I have with each plan. Much like Massachusetts, HealthSource RI offers options for dental plans, so Lisa can get braces. The big drawback? Only one insurance company in HealthSource RI at the moment, Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI. Kind of defeats the purpose of fostering competition with the health insurance exchange, doesn't it?
Rating: 3 Large, 1 Small Del's Lemonades out of 5 Larges
That is all. If there are other state health exchanges worth reviewing, please send them along in the comments below. Or don't, it is probably for the best.
(All images are screen grabs)