Elizabeth Warren: Massachusetts Shows There’s Still Time for Obamacare to Succeed

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a briefing on a Securities and Exchange Commission proposed rule October 30, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Nov. 5, 2013, 7:30 a.m.

Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren, D-Mass., on Tues­day in­voked her own state’s ex­per­i­ence with health re­form as evid­ence that there is still time for Obama­care im­ple­ment­a­tion to suc­ceed.

“What I can tell you all from [the Mas­sachu­setts] ex­per­i­ence is that get­ting every­one in­to the health care sys­tem wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick,” the sen­at­or said in a Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor, and Pen­sions Com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day on the troubled rol­lout of Health­Care.gov. The com­mit­tee is hear­ing testi­mony from Cen­ters for Medi­care and Medi­caid Ser­vices Ad­min­is­trat­or Mar­ilyn Taven­ner on the status of im­prove­ments to the web­site.

Pres­id­ent Obama spoke in Bo­ston last week about the suc­cess of health care re­form in Mas­sachu­setts un­der Mitt Rom­ney’s gov­ernor­ship. The Af­ford­able Care Act has been com­pared to the state’s sys­tem on a lar­ger scale.

“Our en­roll­ment peri­od for sub­sid­ized in­sur­ance las­ted al­most a full year, yet it was only in the last month that 20 per­cent of the total pool got them­selves en­rolled,” War­ren said. “We learned in Mas­sachu­setts that when it comes to en­rolling in health care, many wait un­til the end to get it done.”

Taven­ner agreed, say­ing that the ad­min­is­tra­tion al­ways ex­pec­ted the greatest en­roll­ment surges to come in mid-Decem­ber and at the end of Feb­ru­ary. Those who more des­per­ately need in­sur­ance are ex­pec­ted to be part of the Decem­ber wave to get cov­er­age be­gin­ning Jan. 1. Young­er, health­i­er in­di­vidu­als — the group cru­cial to keep­ing over­all premi­um rates low — are ex­pec­ted to en­roll close to the March 31 dead­line, to avoid the in­di­vidu­al-man­date pen­alty.

“It’s im­port­ant to get the prob­lems fixed in Novem­ber,” Taven­ner said. “But yes, I think we have time.”

War­ren em­phas­ized the im­port­ance of look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture in im­ple­ment­a­tion. “The ex­per­i­ence in Mas­sachu­setts sug­gests it might be prudent for us to take a deep breath about this,” she said.

COR­REC­TION: This art­icle pre­vi­ously quoted Sen. War­ren as say­ing 25 per­cent of the Mas­sachu­setts pool en­rolled in the last month of the en­roll­ment peri­od. She ac­tu­ally said 20 per­cent. 

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