On national television yesterday, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said that, according to reports, the District of Columbia is one of only four jurisdictions, along with three states, that had a successful launch of its health care exchange, DC Health Link, on October 1. Norton said that D.C.'s success is significant because beginning in January, DC Health Link is where all members of Congress and their congressional staff must get health insurance, which they previously received through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Although employees in the U.S. who are covered through their employers are not required to go to the exchanges, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) singled out members of Congress and their office staff as an exception.
In noting the issues with the federal exchange, Norton said, "Congress had reason to anticipate that states, particularly those wary of federal power, would favor state-run exchanges, but 36 opted for the federal government to run their exchanges, and this undoubtedly has contributed to the start-up problems since October 1. Those problems should have been anticipated, with the recently announced backup options -- such as, the 1-800 number and paper applications -- in place. The issues with the federal health care exchange website, however, are temporary. They must not step on the important news for the 48 million who stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act. The administration must expeditiously correct the website issues, but its major goal should be to continue to build confidence in the program."
Norton said that the success of state exchanges, although not confronted with customers from across the nation, is nevertheless a noteworthy cause for optimism. She said that DC Health Link has 267 health plan options and cited an example of cost savings she learned about from a member of her staff. The staff member, who, like all federal employees, has good health insurance, shopped for health insurance on the exchange, in advance, and found that she would save about $100 per month with the same insurer and roughly the same deductible she currently has. She said it was easy to sign on and navigate DC Health Link.
Norton said that Americans are doing the right thing now in shopping around first, and therefore she does not anticipate early buying. When Massachusetts launched the only health insurance program that is similar to the ACA in 2007, less than six percent of the year's total signed up within the first two months, but enrollment reached its potential in a year, and today, 97% of Massachusetts residents are covered.