The ACA isn’t out yet

Don’t confuse the failures of the website HealthCare.gov as the failure of the Affordable Care Act as a whole.

Luis Ruuska

Since its debut, HealthCare.gov has been a prime example of not how to build, launch and operate a website.

Mired by slow loading times, internal errors and a myriad of user complaints, HealthCare.gov has undeniably been a blow to the Affordable Care Act.

Even though most of the ACA’s initial low enrollment numbers can be attributed to HealthCare.gov, it is more important than ever not to confuse the website’s shortcomings as the ACA’s.

Even if HealthCare.gov had launched without a hitch, enrollment numbers may still have been low. This would not exactly come as a surprise to the health care industry, because it’s happened before.

In 2006, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney signed the Massachusetts Health Care Reform Law, informally known as Romneycare, into law.

Business Insider recently reported that only 123 people actually signed up for health care through Massachusetts’ health care law the first month. This was only 0.03 percent of the share of total residents who eventually signed up for health care through the Romneycare.

Massachusetts’ residents did not make their decisions lightly, either. A study showed only one out of every 18 customers who engaged with the website for a while ended up committing to a plan. Additionally, the greatest jump in enrollees was 20 percent, which came during the final month before the deadline was up.

Massachusetts’ health care law eventually overcame its own initial low enrollment numbers, and in subsequent years, it has generally been a success. It should not come as a surprise if enrollment numbers for the ACA follow a similar pattern.

The failures of HealthCare.gov have only been fodder for the ACA’s detractors, but the truth is we will not be able to even begin to get an idea of the ACA’s effectiveness until next March, when the enrollment deadline passes.

Even then, there are various deadlines in the years ahead. There is still plenty of time for the ACA to sink into the health care system.

The ACA has only just been born. We cannot expect it to run before it has even begun to crawl.