Those who don’t have health insurance face a looming deadline of Jan. 1 to enroll in a health insurance plan or face a tax penalty.
It’s part of the Affordable Care Act, often called ObamaCare.
Part of the law gives consumers the opportunity to shop for the best plan on the Federal Health Insurance Exchange website, where plans will compete with one another so you can find the best for you.
However, FOX 17 is learning that there may be a glitch that could push back the time people have to make that decision. Health care experts at Lansing Law Firm, Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap/ PC say credible sources are telling them that the website won’t be ready in time.
“It appears possible that as of October 1st, although the website will be up for the Federal Health Exchange, the ability of that exchange to allow people to actually buy insurance and transact business is probably going to be delayed,” said Jonathan Raven, Chair of the Healthcare Law Department.
If that’s true, it will mean people will have less time to weigh their options before they must sign up for a health insurance plan by the January, 1, deadline.
The impact will depend on any possible delay length.
“If it takes a week for them to get things figured out, might be a minimal impact,” said Michael James, Senior Health Care Business Attorney. “But, if it takes longer than that and we get closer to the cut off deadline…it`s going to be pretty severe for folks not having the time to evaluate and make decisions.”
James said that delay is likely due to an internet technology hiccup.
“The glitch itself is getting these systems to talk, getting everyone on board,” said Michael James.
He predicts it’s difficult to get all the agencies involved communicating and sharing the sensitive information securely.
Some of the information will include social security numbers, birth dates and other private information.
“This needs to be done right. This is a massive undertaking and the error here is substantial that could happen if it`s not done right,” said James.
If there is a delay, James and Raven say critics of ObamaCare will likely pounce on it and make it a political issue.
“I`m a lawyer, but I`m also 62-years-old and right now I think the people in Washington and around the country have proven that anything can turn into a political firestorm,” said Raven.
The men say that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services organization is being tight-lipped about the situation and may not reveal any problems until the last minute.
“We are told by some people in Washington, ‘Don’t expect CMS to actually say anything about this until the first of October’,” said Raven.
“John Q public doesn’t really understand yet how health exchanges are going to work. They don’t really understand what they’re supposed to do on the website. Many of them have never even shopped for or had health insurance before,” said Raven. “So, it’s not just a matter of learning how the Health Exchange works, it may be a matter of learning how health insurance works.”
“There’s an awful lot of unknown that our society is going to be embarking on and it’s going to be a fascinating time,” he said.