Rep. Issa Brings Healthcare Debate to Arizona

By Peter O'Dowd
Published: Friday, December 6, 2013 - 6:13am
Courtesy of the Judge Family
Gene Judge, left, with her family. She's looking for health insurance through the federal exchange for her son Matt, sitting, who has spina bifida.

The endless political battle over the Affordable Care Act continues Friday morning in Apache Junction. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is coming to town with a hearing of the Congressional Oversight committee.

Arizona Republicans Paul Gosar, David Schweikert, and Trent Franks will join Issa at the Apache Junction City Hall. They’ll hear testimony from people who say they’ve been kicked off their healthcare plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The hearing starts at 10 a.m. Issa held a similar meeting recently in North Carolina.

Meanwhile, this week, the Obama Administration continued its own offensive, claiming many of the problems on the website have been fixed.

“I’m glad it’s working for somebody, but I gotta say, it’s not working for me,” said Mesa resident Gene Judge, who has been trying to get her adult son enrolled in a health plan since the program began Oct. 1. Matt Judge has spina bifida. Mother and son have both spent many hours online and on the phone trying to navigate the troubled system. Even after the administration said technical improvements sped up the website and improved the chronic breakdowns, they still can’t get through.

“I’m absolutely deflated,” Judge said.

Arizona insurance companies are trying to catch up, too. University of Arizona Health Plans CEO James Stover said things this week are finally going more smoothly. His company is selling plans on the federal exchange. [You can listen to a previous KJZZ interview on the health exchange with Stover.] But so far, only 25 people have successfully enrolled since October. That’s several hundred people below where Stover expected to be at this time.

With the latest improvements to the federal website, “we anticipate our enrollment will increase tenfold in the next two weeks,” Stover said.  

But even if the consumer experience is getting better, Stover said the website’s backend still isn’t working right. In other words, his company may have no record of some customers who’ve supposedly signed up for a plan.

All these problems have forced the company to adapt. Stover is not hiring as many staff. He’s reduced his marketing expenses. But he’s willing to be patient, he said, because “while there have been operational issues that are related to the actual implementation of the program, the theory and the principles behind it, University of Arizona Health Plans absolutely supports 100 percent.”

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