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A Timely, Smooth Launch for the Health Care Law? The Jury's Out

Will everything be ready to launch President Obama's health care law by the Oct. 1 deadline? We're getting mixed signals.


Start with a report released June 19 by the Government Accountability Office, the first in-depth look at the sprawling system.

The upside: "Much progress has been made in establishing the regulatory framework and guidance required for this undertaking, and [the administration] is currently taking steps to implement key activities of the [online insurance marketplaces]," the report said. (Read the full document at this .pdf.)

The hedge: "Nevertheless, much remains to be accomplished within a relatively short period of time."

And then there's "Get Covered America," a campaign launched June 18 by a nonprofit group Enroll America to spread the word about the law to the uninsured Americans it targets.

The upside: The campaign will start by sending volunteers door to door and handing out brochures at farmers markets and churches in 18 states, including California, Florida and Texas.

The hedge: "Seventy-eight percent of the uninsured aren't even aware of what's coming their way," says Anne Filipic, the president of Enroll America who previously worked in the White House.

One of the most critical pieces of the operation is a computerized clearinghouse for the entire system - a federal "data hub" that's supposed to offer instant rulings on consumers' eligibility. It hasn't had a full test run.

Here's how AP writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar  sums it up: "Translation: most of the specs have been written, but the all wiring hasn't been laid, and what will happen when they flip the switch nobody really knows. And remember, Oct. 1 is less than four months away."

While open enrollment for new health insurance plans starts Oct. 1, coverage becomes effective in January 2014.


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