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Nevada County officials: Glitch addled Obamacare roll out

The implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s centerpiece has been riddled with glitches, errors and poor planning, officials said during the Tuesday meeting of the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.

While the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has several components, one of the cornerstones involves expanding health care to the currently uninsured, while providing tax breaks to low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

In order to implement this vital component, counties across the country have begun to assist in enrolling qualified individuals in the programs.



The enrollment process has been beset by computer glitches, poor training and certification processes and, in Nevada County, relatively low demand, according to a presentation by Nevada County Social Services Director Nicole Pollack.

“Glitches get resolved daily, and new glitches arise daily,” Pollack said. “It’s a daily event.”




The hiccups in the state-run health insurance marketplace — currently being installed by Covered California — were anticipated by officials, said Jeffrey Brown, Nevada County director of the Health and Human Services Agency.

“I think at this time, the rollout is going well enough,” Brown said. “When Covered California unveiled its plans, they foresaw the month of October was going to be a slow month to test the system and address any bumps in the road and gear up with enrollment beginning in November.”

Pollack urged those interested in enrolling to use October to collect documentation.

Supervisor Ed Scofield pointedly asked Pollack and Brown would what occur should Obamacare be defunded or delayed, as House Republicans have demanded in exchange for passing a budget or raising the nation’s debt limit.

The tactic has led to a government shutdown in its second week.

“I think it is unlikely it will be defunded,” Pollack said.

“I’m just looking at what is happening in Washington right now,” Scofield said, saying while the shutdown has not affected Obamacare implementation, if it is defunded, the program could be affected drastically.

Pollack said the county will deal with the ramifications of dramatic alterations to the law if and when they arise.

Brown further said that expansion of Medi-Cal is state law and will remain largely unaffected by the continuing drama in Washington, D.C.

One element that emerged was a need for clarity.

Nevada County is expected to roll back its County Medical Services Program, which provides health care to low-income adults in 35 primarily rural counties in California. The program is expected to be replaced by Obamacare and, as such, will be rolled back in proportion to the implementation of the state-administered federal program. Pollack said her staff has become certified to assist individuals, but the training has been fraught with poor planning.

“Training has been a source of frustration,” she said, recounting one story of training materials arriving on Saturday with an expectation that employees in all 58 counties would be fully up to speed by Monday.

County employees and health care hotlines have only had a handful of calls to date but expect demand to pick up as the March enrollment deadline nears, Pollack said.

Some supervisors questioned the value of the Affordable Care Act and expressed worry over its cost-effectiveness but praised Pollack and her staff for taking on the unwieldy implementation process.

“The county has been ground zero for good things and bad things,” said Chairman Hank Weston. “I give you great credit for dealing with a dysfunctional system.”

Other supervisors recommended patience.

“I think this is one of the biggest changes in United States history, so we have to be patient with the process,” said Supervisor Terry Lamphier.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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