Some 300,000 Iowans have no health care coverage but a new federal report says only 136 Iowans bought plans through the federal government’s website health-care-dot-gov during the first month. National numbers are also well below projections.
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin says he’s not surprised people are slow to jump on board but he says the new system is sound, despite a few bumps along the way. “People are being a little cautious, they’re holding back,” Harkin says. “I want to remind you, when Massachusetts rolled out its plan under then-Republican Governor Romney, only 123 people signed up in the first month.”
Harkin says he’s optimistic that many more people will sign up. He points to the report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which says some 5,500 insurance applications were completed by Iowans during the website’s first month to cover almost 11,000 people. Harkin says, “Human nature being what it is, people will always put off until the last minute whatever they’ve got to do, especially if it’s going to cost them some money.”
Nationally, about 106,000 Americans have purchased health care plans through the government website during the first month, far below the projected half-million. Harkin, a Democrat, lays some of the blame for the dismal numbers on Republicans. “There’s been a lot of confusion put out there, a lot of it purposefully to try to undermine the Affordable Care Act and then you have a website that’s unworkable,” Harkin says. “You add those two things up and it doesn’t come as any surprise to me that so few people have actually taken out a plan.”
Most policies purchased now won’t be active until January 1st. People who don’t have health care after that date may be subject to fines through the IRS. Harkin says it’s natural for folks to procrastinate. “People will wait,” Harkin says. “You’re going to have this huge crunch coming in February and March, that is, assuming we don’t extend the deadline. If we extend the deadline, we’ll have that huge crunch whenever that deadline is set.”
Under the current rules, consumers have until December 15th to buy policies that will take effect on January 1st. While the government website has been buggy, Harkin reminds that toll-free phone numbers are available for people to call who don’t want to attempt to navigate the site.