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Politics

Conservatives and Liberals Clash on Obama Health Care Launch

October 23, 2013 - 6:00pm

Conservatives and liberals clashed Thursday over the success of President Barack Obamas federal health-care law, which took effect at the start of the month.

The Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a conservative group based in Florida, launched a website to provide information on how to enroll in the plan in each state and tracked the number of participants already enrolled. On Thursday, the FGA noted less than 46,900 individuals had enrolled so far -- a far cry from the 7 million individuals the Obama administration planned for.

While technical problems at the federal programs website are partially to blame for low enrollment so far, the FGA argued on Thursday that lower enrollment numbers would result in higher premiums.

The Obamacare exchanges are on track for monumental failure if current enrollment trends continue; a fact Americans can see for themselves using a new map and charting feature at www.UncoverObamaCare.com, the FGA claimed on Thursday.

Tarren Bragdon, the CEO of the FGA, insisted his group was providing a useful public service while the Obama administration continues to bungle the launch of the program.

The American people have a right to transparency, especially about our health care, said Bragdon on Thursday. The administration has blocked or delayed the release of most outcomes related to the presidents swan-song legislation. The information that has trickled out is jumbled and confusing. The UncoverObamaCare.com enrollment map deciphers that information and serves as a tool to track what success, if any, the administration has in enrolling people into the exchanges.

Bragdon pointed to the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority, currently headed by executive director Mila Kaufman, as proof of low enrollments in the program. Noting almost 12,300 individuals created online accounts so far, only 321 had actually enrolled so far. The administration is expecting almost 9,450 individuals to enroll in the program over the next year. The FGA claimed that more than 361,650 individuals, more than half the citys population, would have to create accounts if the program is to reach its expected numbers.

Mila Kaufmans D.C. exchange is the poster child for this enrollment disaster, but its a story thats repeated over and over again across the country, Bragdon said.

Moving to the national level, Bragdon insisted to meet the expected 7 million enrollments, more than 95 million Americans -- more than a quarter of the countrys population -- would have to set up accounts.

With enrollment expectations completely off the mark, Americans should wonder why they would risk enrolling in an Obamacare exchange plan, Bragdon said. Who would want to enroll and trust their health care to a program that has already proven to be such a colossal failure? The best advice, especially for those considering dropping private coverage to enroll, is to wait and see if the administration can get its act together. Enrolling now is a risk to your health and bottom line that isnt worth taking.

While conservative groups like FGA continue to attack the health care law, liberal organizations continue to insist the small number of enrollments so far are part of a process which will extend for the rest of October and another five months.

Brad Woodhouse, the president of liberal group Americans United for Change, ripped into U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee which held a hearing on Thursday on the implementation of the law.

Give me a break Woodhouse said. Its really rich for Republicans to be shedding crocodile tears over the glitches in the ACA website when they have done nothing for four years but try to impede, repeal and defund the law and root for its failure. This is pure, craven politics. You know Congressman Bilirakis doesnt give a wit that Americans are having trouble enrolling in a health plan when his voting record reflects someone who prefers that uninsured Americans be left with no quality, affordable coverage options at all.

This is a transparent attempt by Republicans to score political points around road bumps in the health laws implementation and distract from the fact that they just left 120,000 Americans without jobs by shutting down the government in the name of Obamacare, Woodhouse continued. Its not fooling anyone. And it takes a lot of nerve. If Congressman Bilirakis were truly concerned about how smoothly the health laws implementation is going, he would stop throwing monkey wrenches into the process every chance he gets. You could call what Bilirakis and the Republicans are engaging in hypocrisy, but that would be an insult to hypocrites."

Woodhouse insisted, despite the problems, Americans remained supportive of the health care law.

Bilirakis phony concerns notwithstanding, we have every confidence that the administrations tech surge under way will fix what needs fixing and open up the doors for even more uninsured Americans to finally get the affordable, quality care they deserve, Woodhouse said in conclusion. Of course, the website glitches dont affect the majority of Americans who already have insurance. They still have the peace of mind knowing that ACAs new benefits and consumer protections from insurance industry abuse have added many layers to their health security.

In the meantime, a poll from Rasmussen Reports released on Thursday found a slight majority of likely voters -- 51 percent -- want to delay the individual mandate included in the health care law. As things stand, by the start of the new year, Americans are to have health care insurance or face financial penalties. The poll found more than a third of those surveyed -- 34 percent -- oppose delaying the individual mandate. The poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken from Oct. 22-23 and had a margin of error of +/- 3 percent.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com.

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