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    Will Low Online Enrollments In The Fall Hobble The Health Law?


    Q: What about a bigger fix? Let people keep the policies they have for another year. Or create a bailout pool for those who need emergency coverage until the websites presumably work in 2015.

    It’s getting late even for extending this year’s policies. In many cases neither insurers nor state regulators are prepared.

    “If we had known this was going to happen in September, early renewing (of existing plans) probably was going to be the answer,” said Joseph Antos, a health economist at the American Enterprise Institute. “Now that we know in November it’s not looking too great.”

    Anything more ambitious, such as a new, national “risk pool” similar to the temporary coverage given those with existing illness starting in 2010, would probably require Congress to pass a new legislation.

    “Since Congress can’t agree on big things like debt ceilings and a budget,” said Copeland, “I don’t know how this is going to get solved.”

    Q: What’s the worst-case scenario for those unable to sign up?

    A: Millions, including those with existing illness, could have trouble getting coverage. The administration may be working on a plan to have consumers contact insurers directly, but some worry they could end up buying the wrong policies if they don’t see the full online menu.

    “We have had concerns about direct enrollment,” said Judith Solomon, vice president for health policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which supports the law. “Consumers won’t have the full ability to shop in the short term.”

    Those who do obtain insurance could have trouble gaining online premium subsidies, which so far are available through the government portals.

    If computer breakdowns disproportionately deter the young and healthy from joining the ranks of the covered, insurers could lose money. That could set the stage for premium spikes and the kind of instability in the individual insurance market that the health law was supposed to solve.

    Q: What about the law’s safety valves for unexpectedly large claims in the early years?Measures to compensate insurers with high initial expenses are supposed to keep them from making it up with higher prices for the first three years.

    Thu, Nov 14 2013

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