You may want to avoid making a doctor's appointment or going to the hospital in January--it's probably going to be crazy busy that month. That prediction comes after an "under the radar" move by the Obama Administration last Thursday asking insurers taking part in the federal health care exchanges to begin providing coverage to enrollees--even if they haven't paid their premiums.
We are hearing a lot of talk about how many more people have been able to "sign up" at HealthCare.gov in the month or so since the Administration admitted that they had completely botched the website rollout. "Signing up" merely involves putting your personal information into the easily-hacked database and selecting which plan you are going to purchase. But what we aren't getting are the numbers of people who have actually "enrolled". "Enrolling" involves actually paying at least the first month's premium. Some estimates put the "enrollment" rate at just 15% of the "sign up" rate.
This is just the latest example of reality encroaching on the "fantasy" world of the Affordable Care Act. To achieve this "everyone must have health insurance" requirement, you need people who can't save up enough money in 11 months of the year for their Christmas shopping to have cash on hand to buy an insurance policy by December 23rd. Don't you think if most of those folks were able to budget responsibly, they would have been buying insurance already (not counting those who were buying cheaper insurance but just had their policies canceled because "If you like your plan, you can keep it" won the PolitiFact Lie of the Year title)?
In an effort to boost those "enrollment" numbers as much as possible as we head into the final few weeks of 2013, the White House "encouraged" those insurers in the exchange to issue policies without payment--for "just the first month". (Encouraged might be too kind a term, those who fail to comply face getting booted out of the exchanges next year and having to go back to competing in the open market for business again instead of having the government feed it to them.)
What could possibly go wrong with giving some people free health insurance--so long as they "pinky swear" to pay the premium by the end of the month? I'm sure nobody would rush right out and make appointments for procedures or get prescription discounts and stick an insurance company with the bill after not paying a single dollar of premiums and then disappearing back into the mass of humanity that manages to escape responsibilities like income taxes and child support payments.
Well at least the responsible people who do pay their health insurance premiums on time won't get stuck with the bill. Oh, wait a minute, I forgot we were talking about reality here.