Three years ago Washington state's elected officials took the lead in implementing Obamacare, saying that if Washington did not set up a state health care exchange, as required by the 2010 Affordable Care Act the federal government would do it for us. The Exchange will cost the state about $50 million a year to operate.
Under the law the online Exchange was to be up and running today. Instead visitors find it is not working. A notice at the site, WAHealthPlanFinder, tells those seeking health coverage:
"Apologies for the delay & thanks for your patience! We are working to to correct a few things and will have an update at 9:30amPST"
The Seattle Times is tracking the downed site and providing regular updates.
This is more than just an embarrassment to Obamacare backers. The Affordable Care Act, for the first time time in U.S. history, will require Americans to buy a health care policy or be fined. All adults must provide proof of qualified health care coverage starting January 1st, to be reported to the IRS by April 15th, 2014. Attempting to provide false information to the IRS carries a $10,000 fine or one year in jail.
There are exceptions. The Obama Administration has issued thousands of waivers to the Affordable Care Act to well-connected corporations and labor unions, and the President recently signed a law that exempts Members of Congress and congressional staff. In addition, the President has delayed a mandate on employers for a year, while the IRS will enforce the mandate on individuals on schedule.
Today is the first day of the new era of U.S. health care under the Affordable Care Act. People who did not receive a waiver or are not employed by Congress are understandable nervous about how the law will affect them. The law remains unpopular, and today's failure of the state-operated Exchange will likely add to its troubles.