I live in Virginia and one of our largest papers, the Virginian-Pilot, did a story this week about companies that capitalize on the confusion surrounding the official words and names in the Affordable Care Act.
For example, the Virginia Health Insurance Exchange isn’t the government Obamacare site — it’s a private company. I read the article and then started playing with the terms myself. I found that when I Google the term “Virginia Health Insurance Exchange,” the very first listing is for www.healthinsurance.org/virginia-state-health-insurance-exchange.
The blurb for that site on the Google results page says it’s “The state-wide health insurance marketplace being created in Virginia as a result of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).”
If you’re savvy about the web and the government, you probably noticed right off that while all of the official government buzzwords are in there, the website itself isn’t a .gov site, it’s a .org. If you don’t spend a lot of time surfing for official sites, you’re likely to miss the misdirection. The site leads not to the government marketplace site or to the Virginia Health Insurance Exchange company, but to a third site — a private insurance industry informational page where you’re prompted first to enter your zip code, and then more information about yourself, to get insurance quotes.
The actual Virginia Health Insurance Exchange company is harder to find if you’re looking on purpose. It’s at http://getcoveredva.com but it’s extremely easy to find accidentally, since it’s remarkably similar to the one of the official Virginia healthcare sites: http://coverva.org.
The article cites other examples — and reasonable explanations from business owners about why they chose their URLs. And of course, none of this is illegal and strategic name-gaming has been a fairly common business practice since the Internet took off.
But the Affordable Care Act rollout was already plagued with technical problems and a number of states (including Virginia) are refusing to help sign residents up for political reasons. In those states, the rollout has been particularly troublesome, according to an article last week in the HuffPost that focuses on Virginia.
In an already-difficult healthcare environment, where healthcare is already caught between warring political factions, it at least bears noting that private industry and the Internet sometimes muddy the waters more than necessary.The Virginian-Pilot article is here: http://hamptonroads.com/2013/10/health-care-name-game-confusing-so-take-note
The Huffington Post article is here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/14/obamacare-states_n_4086910.html
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