Affordable Care Act website glitches; bad for politics, bad for health care

2 min read

The recent launch of the website, the online portal for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), has been riddled with technical glitches and delays, frustrating users and insurers, and prompting many lawmakers to point fingers and others to suggest delaying the open enrollment period.

While the technical glitches might look bad from a political perspective, Joe Newhouse, John D. MacArthur Professor of Health Policy and Management at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), argues that it’s equally as bad from a health care perspective.

“If I am really sick I am more willing to fight through the hassle of getting insurance,” says Newhouse. “If the rate of good risks [persons who will not use much medical care] not signing up exceeds what insurers thought when they set premiums, there could be a spike in premiums on the exchanges for 2015, which in turn would require an increase in federal subsidies.

“I am confident that in time the IT issues will be addressed and that coverage will expand. I am also confident that cost growth will slow relative to historical standards, because the consequence in terms of what is available for non-health spending, both in the public and private sectors, is so large,” he says. “I am not at all sure, however, about the mechanisms that will lead costs to slow nor about the health consequences of any such slowing.”