The new government and state health insurance exchange websites have been riddled with technological difficulties, which both supporters and opponents of the health care law have been quick to point out. But some important realities about the first month of Obamacare have been overlooked due to the extensive coverage of the website glitches.
Here are some facts and figures that might surprise you.
1. The opposition and support was (and continues to be) intense.
The government shutdown stole the media thunder for much of October as well as Republicans' push to defund Obamacare. The opposition produced some impressive numbers, with more than 2 million people signing the Don't Fund It! petition. Twitter was also a good place for people to get their voices heard. The hashtag #DefundIt was tweeted more than 9,000 times, and #StandWithCruz appeared more than 21,000 times in October.
Despite strong opposition, many Americans encouraged their neighbors and friends to learn more about health insurance, with the popular #GetCovered hashtag appearing in more than 122,000 tweets in October. This hashtag was a favorite among celebrities, including actresses Kerry Washington and Alyssa Milano and singers Pharrell Williams and Lady Gaga, who encouraged their fans to seek health insurance coverage at Healthcare.gov.
2. Millions have (and will) be spent on outreach.
Monetary support for the law isn't lacking either. A whopping $292 million was spent on building Healthcare.gov, nearly three times the amount originally contracted to CGI Federal to build the site. This has raised speculation about early, undisclosed problems that demanded a larger budget. The government awarded $67 million for the hiring and training of "navigators," or individuals compensated by the government to help sign up Americans in their communities. But this is a small amount compared to $684 million - what's expected to be spent annually on Obamacare outreach programs, according to the Associated Press.
3. Traffic has dropped, but more people have started signing up.
Everyone knew about the massive spike in traffic on Oct. 1 and the resultant technical glitches. Traffic has since gone down; 5.31 million unique visitors accessed Healthcare.gov during week one, as opposed to 1.58 million during week three. But a recent report by the Internet technology company comScore reveals that conversion rates - or the percent of visitors who actually create accounts and shop for insurance - are going up.
This isn't surprising, considering there were only six successful enrollments through Healthcare.gov on day one. The number increased to 248 by the end of day two. About 90,000 users completed an application and compared plans on the site during week three - more than six times the number of people who applied during week one. The percentage of site visitors who signed in increased significantly as well: Twenty-two percent of visitors successfully logged in during week three, versus just 2 percent in week one.
Many of the state marketplaces have fared much better than Healthcare.gov. Kentucky and Washington have each seen tens of thousands of enrollments.
4. The benefits of the law are kicking in.
Some benefits of the law are already in effect. For example, insurers can no longer cancel your plan if you get sick, and they can't set a lifetime limit on how much they will pay for your medical bills. Another provision establishes a rapid appeal process, which allows consumers to appeal insurance company decisions and receive a response in 72 hours for urgent medical situations.
The CommonWealth Fund Insurance Tracking Survey estimates that 15 million Americans under age 26 were able to stay on their parents' plan due to Obamacare's dependent coverage provision. In addition, an estimated 8.5 million Americans currently insured received rebates from their insurance companies due to a provision of the law that requires insurers to spend a certain percentage of premium revenue on health care costs.
Napala Pratini writes for NerdWallet Health, where you can find out more about affordable health care coverage.
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