Dear Journalists: Your privilege is clouding your perspective on Obamacare website glitches

Via MSNBC

Via MSNBC

If I see one more journalist symbolically log on to the Obamacare website, I’m going to scream. If you’re making faux calls into the call center, only to complain about the lack of hold music, as if that is what’s critically important here, you’re severely missing the point.

And even when you defend your negative reporting about the Obamacare website glitches, as The Washington Post‘s Ezra Klein did last night on MSNBC, having the privilege of analyzing the process from the perspective of someone who is already insured and not in need of coverage allows the core impact of the new program on the health and security of millions of Americans to be missed.

I joined Joan Walsh and Lizz Winstead last night on MSNBC to discuss these hyperbolic attacks on the Obamacare rollout.  (Closed Captioning is turned on).

Obamacare is more than a website. More than half of the people I worked with on the Obama campaign in 2008 said health care reform was their reason for joining the campaign and working to elect a Democrat. Forty-seven million Americans, including me, were uninsured until now. When I finally was able to log into the site–after a few days and a few false starts–I was floored by the number of affordable options. When I scrolled through my list of choices–124 different plans to be exact–I realized that this is the reason Republicans hate the program so much: it will fundamentally change lives, including my own.

There are a few glaring omissions in the coverage of Obamacare’s shaky rollout. For the most part, those covering the problems are insured themselves and consequently greatly underestimate the patience of a chronically uninsured person who has been counting down the days until Obamacare began so they could have a little peace of mind that if they got sick they wouldn’t be staring down bankruptcy.

And while some young men may think they are invincible and don’t need health insurance, preventative care is not something that the majority of women can roll the dice with. Between recommended regular pap smears and appointments to access birth control, seeing a doctor is often a necessity. And, let’s be clear, thanks to Obamacare, young people can stay on their parents insurance until they are 26; By 27 young people, regardless of their gender, tend to be more responsible and much more risk averse.

The website problems are being fixed–the New York exchange that I am using to compare plans is working just fine as of this morning–and the Obama administration has promised to work on the glitches to ensure that Americans who will likely wait until the last minute to sign up will have a working website. Enrollment lasts until February 15th and the coverage begins January 1st. While the early website issues are frustrating, they by no means indicate that the program as a whole has failed.

And unless you are a journalist who has been chronically uninsured, your feigned frustration about website issues reeks of privilege. To me, a few website glitches are a lot less frustrating than having to use the same inhaler for over a year because I can’t afford to go the doctor. Perspective is everything.

Zerlina MaxwellZerlina Maxwell really wants to be a superhero, but will settle for blogging.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted October 24, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Computer wait time for health insurance: still no more than the wait to be seen for the flu in the emergency room or a typical crowded low income clinic only once.

  2. Posted October 24, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    It is amusing that the only thing Republicans are able to bitch about re: Obamacare is the “technical glitches” – as though they are the foremost technological experts and advocates. Among them are some of the most ass-backwards, anti-technological people in government (vaccine-scare Bachmann and the “birth control kills the baby” wing). Also, our trillion-dollar-net-worth bank and credit card companies don’t even have the technology or technical or security expertise to design and maintain decent websites, or to keep their websites from being maliciously hacked and/or crashed at any given time. I just got an e-mail from frigging Adobe that customer information had been compromised by a malicious attacker. I mean, really. (Why does Adobe have all my personal information again?)

    Obama’s development team probably could have handed this project over to Microsoft and they still would have had “technical glitches” because of the short time frame – anyone who works with IT, programming, or web design knows it is the nature of the work. Further, *lots of website traffic can sometimes make a website crash*. Republicans probably didn’t know that, either.

  3. Posted October 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Great points.

    And as an update: the White House has announced that enrollments will be accepted up to March 31 to qualify to avoid the no-insurance tax penalty (undoing the confused wording that had implied the penalty would kick in if your plan was not *activated* by March 31). So you have the full open-enrollment period to sign up – not just to February 15.

    http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/DC-Decoder/2013/1024/Obamacare-101-Enroll-by-March-31-to-avoid-penalty-White-House-clarifies

  4. Posted October 24, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Wait. I seem to remember being told that “ObamaCare” was The. Law.

    What is the legal basis for a delay in the individual mandate, or the employer mandate, the 1,200+ waivers for big donors to the DNC, or the dozen other changes this President has made to “the law.”?

    The law says penalties for employers and individual consumers begin in 2014 unless coverage is in place on Jan.1, 2014.

    We learned during the recent 2-week government shutdown that for a white politician to delay the signature legislative achievement of this nation’s 1st black President is nothing short of RACISM. I’m appalled by the racism of these earlier commenters!

    • Posted October 27, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      What is the legal basis for a delay in the individual mandate, or the employer mandate, the 1,200+ waivers for big donors to the DNC, or the dozen other changes this President has made to “the law”?

      Let’s say you’re driving and you come to a T in the road. You’re driving downhill, and there’s a stop sign about 15 feet off the road. The sign is partially obscured by a low-hanging tree branch, and anyway, you can’t tell if it applies to you or drivers coming from your right. So you blow through the stop sign and a cop pulls you over. He says, “We know that the sign is a little hard to see where it’s placed. In another month, the state DOT should fix it, but since it isn’t fixed yet, I’m going to let you go with a warning.” Has the cop broken the law by not citing you?

  5. Posted October 24, 2013 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Zerlina and Feministing for this enlightening piece. This complaining about the glitches by the Obamacare critics is going to have a devastating effect on enrollment. What folks may not realize is many that are attempting to register may be actually going “online” for the first time in years or in their lives. Here in “new media” we tend to think that “everyone is social media or online “savvy” with FB, Twitter and Tumblr accounts, and that signing up will be a breeze. And it will be for “us”, but for many, that is not the case, I mention this because out there in the “real world,’ where there’s one old PC in a community center, that dozens may wait in line to spend 15 minutes on, just so a volunteer can “assist” with opening a FB account for them, signing up for ACA is not something their looking forward to. Think back to when we opened our 1st FB account and how intimidating the sign on process was. Now when you consider the fact that a large percentage of folks that are uninsured are also not “online savvy”, when they hear about “glitches” and other negative things, fear and intimidation sets in. In short, they are NOT going to be running in to a library or community center to sign up. In summary, we can’t expect the critics to not criticize, but one thing is a definite, we’re going to need volunteers, spaces and the resources to “bring folks in to a welcoming smile” and assist them with signing up. Myself, I’ve never participated in such an effort, but if anyone reads this and is aware of a place or organization that needs volunteers, feel free to contact me. I’m thinking or hoping that someone is working on this now, rather than waiting for the registration deadline to sneak up on us. Thanks for your time and consideration..

    MichaelWNYC

  6. Posted October 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Bravado piece of commentary. I never bother to comment on such things as i consider them noise, but this one piece pushed me to. Some of the media coverage has been nothing but hysterical, as though enrollment ends in next 24 hours. Please don`t let the likes of wolff blitzer, ezra klien propagate such unreasonable noise. If website problem still have problems well into febuary, then fair game.

  7. Posted October 26, 2013 at 1:08 am | Permalink

    “For the most part, those covering the problems are insured themselves and consequently greatly underestimate the patience of a chronically uninsured person who has been counting down the days until Obamacare began so they could have a little piece of mind that if they got sick they wouldn’t be staring down bankruptcy.”

    This is the exact same point I try to make with my privileged friends who whine about third-world children tirelessly picking through toxic glaciers of trash looking for recyclable materials. Their privilege blinds them to the reality of what a relief it is to find a scrap of metal worth a bowl of rice.

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