The insurance exchanges mandated by the 2009 health care law will be so utterly baffling that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services now needs to hire of tens of thousands of "Obamacare navigators" – at a cost to taxpayers of $9 billion or more every year.
Anyone who uses the new exchanges will quickly find out why Obamacare navigators were deemed necessary.
The draft application form for an individual is already up to 15 pages, while the form for a family is at 21 pages. And the instruction book is 61 pages.
"It's a lot of information that consumers are going to have to provide, and that could deter people from signing up," Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com, told MarketWatch. "That could be an issue for some people who don't like paperwork. And who likes paperwork?"
The government estimates the form will take anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes to complete, but that doesn't count all the information and document-gathering an applicant will need to do before even walking in the door of an exchange.
"If you like IRS forms, you're going to love this one," Ken Hoagland, chairman of conservative advocacy group Restore America's Voice, told MarketWatch. "These are the kinds of things that are going to drive people crazy."
The Obamacare Navigators Army: Bigger than the IRS
And speaking of the Internal Revenue Service, just this one thin slice of Obamacare alone will soon dwarf the whole of the IRS.
The state of California has already asked for 21,000 Obamacare navigators, which puts a projected national figure at 140,000 or higher. The employee count for the IRS at the end of 2012 was 97,717.
According to an HHS document that specified the details of how the Obamacare navigators would be hired, the typical worker would get paid $20 an hour, with project leaders making $29 per hour and executives making as much as $48 an hour.
Throw in generous government benefits, and you have $9 billion to $10 billion in taxpayer money wasted annually simply because clueless lawmakers made the system too complicated.
In some cases, the cost will hit even closer to home. States that opted not to use the federal health insurance exchanges in favor of setting up their own will be required to foot the bill for the Obamacare navigators out of their own coffers.
And knowing how government bureaucracies tend to keep growing larger every year, 140,000 Obamacare navigators will no doubt be just a start.
The irony of wasting billions on Obamacare navigators in the wake of promises that the Affordable Care Act would reduce costs was not lost on Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-TX.
"Hiring tens of thousands of new workers that cannot treat patients, nor even by definition actually enroll citizens in a qualified health plan, appears to be a significant misuse of taxpayer funds," Marchant, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, wrote in an April 4 letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Obamacare Navigators Symbolic of Healthcare Chaos
The need for 140,000 or more Obamacare navigators is just one sign among many that the promises of the healthcare law won't be realized.
Many states have missed deadlines for setting up the health insurance exchanges, which are supposed to be open this fall for the January 2014 open-enrollment season.
And despite the loud public debate over Obamacare, few consumers seem aware that the exchanges are supposed to launch this year. A survey released last week by InsuranceQuotes.com revealed that 90% of U.S. consumers did not know the exchanges are slated to open Oct. 1, and 22% actually thought they were already open.
That's a bad sign. Because even with tens of thousands of Obamacare navigators, the 4 million or so Americans who will need to use the exchanges could easily overwhelm the system, particularly if most wait until the last minute.
"Our fear is that people are going to put it off till New Year's Eve, and by then the sites will be overloaded and navigators will be overloaded," InsuranceQuotes.com's Adams said.
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