The controversy surrounding the rocky debut of the Affordable Care Act’s online marketplace is far from over. Though USA Today reported that 700,000 applications were submitted this week, little improvement has been seen on the actual website. This goes to show that online registration creates more harm than good. Though not fail-proof, in-person registration might still prove the best way for such large-scale systems.
When healthcare.gov opened on Oct. 1, 8.5 million people flooded the site, but none were able to register. The website, as it turns out, was tested only two weeks prior to going live, according to the Washington Post. This lack of foresight speaks to the many missteps that could have been prevented. For a highly anticipated healthcare plan, this outcome is extremely disappointing. The Post reported that website administrators declined to say when these problems would be fixed.
Seeing that uninsured people will be required in 2014 to carry health insurance or pay a fine, the prospects for the success of universal healthcare don’t look good.
Michael Astrue, the former commissioner of Social Security, issued a warning in the Weekly Standard this week. He stated that “Department of Health and Human Services decided to build political support for the Affordable Care Act by pouring money into supportive organizations so they could launch poorly trained workers into their communities without obtaining criminal background checks or creating systems for monitoring their activities.” These unaccountable workers, known as navigators, will have access to Social Security numbers and other private information, and could spawn a new breed of identity thieves.
Though the database that links federal agency records is useful to evaluate eligibility, it is also the “largest consolidation of personal data in our nation’s history,” according to the National Review. Inevitably, that data hub has become a magnet for identity thieves. According to the National Review, Minnesota’s health care exchange inadvertently released the Social Security numbers of 2,000 state residents before healthcare.gov was even launched on Oct. 1. John C.A. Bambenek, who works for nonprofit Internet Storm Center, told news site nextgov.com that as of last Wednesday afternoon, 700 copycat healthcare.gov sites had emerged, many of which host bogus insurance marketplaces.
A few other scams that have surfaced include a fake national insurance card pitched by conmen to obtain personal information and bank account numbers, according to Forbes.
Though the Affordable Care Act is well-intentioned, its website and execution is still suffering from many issues. The Obama administration should have ironed out these details prior to embarking on such an elaborate endeavor.
Valerie Yu is a sophomore majoring in biological sciences and English.
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