I logged on to healthcare.gov the other day.
I don’t know why I did that. Maybe because we’re so close to Halloween, I felt some macabre need to experience fright. We can hear the horror stories of frazzled consumers caught in a cyber vortex leading to nowhere, but the joy of watching the rotating computer hourglass that never stops helps one fully appreciate the epic ineptitude of this system.
So, I proceeded into the land of the Affordable Care Act with caution and low expectations.
Signing on was easy. Big Brother ... uh, the system ... said I first had to set up an account. It went smoothly, even when I was sent through a series of security questions to prove I am really me.
Let’s pause here for a moment.
There are plenty of people who say the registration is a big data grab from unwary consumers. They are wrong. This system already knew a lot about me before I ever got started.
It knows where I was born. It knows former telephone numbers. It knows about that night, uh, never mind. It knows more about me than I know.
But that’s where it stopped. After I was officially registered, the system froze and all the mouse clicks in the world didn’t change a thing.
I gave it about 30 minutes, then went back to playing online Scrabble.
A six-letter word for health care: F-I-A-S-C-O.
For many people, though, this is no game.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 253,000 people in Hillsborough County who don’t have health insurance. If you combine Pasco and Pinellas, there are about 240,000 more in the same predicament.
That’s close to a quarter of the residents of our area without health insurance. It is one of the highest rates in the country and explains why Tampa is one of 10 cities scheduled for a visit soon from a high-level administration official. No doubt, that person will promise better days are coming soon.
Then again, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius did the same thing in two previous visits here, so listener beware. And a programming note: She will be served up with croutons to Congress on Wednesday to explain this mess, as if there is anything she can say that will make sense.
When something as ballyhooed as this health care plan crashes into a bright orange fireball, we need more than an explanation. Heads need to roll like it’s the Tuesday night bowling league.
I may have been one of the lucky ones, though. There are news reports every day about people who navigated the maze well enough to get a quote, only to find annual premiums about twice what they had been paying for perfectly fine insurance.
So much for the “affordable” part of the health care act.
There is potential good news, though: If you get sticker shock from skyrocketing premiums, it might be considered a pre-existing condition that has to be covered under the ACA.
You can look it up.