Where Do We Go From Here?
There may be a few thousand more enrollments to come from Nevada, Colorado and so forth, but today, April 30, is about as definitive a date as we're gonna get for the wrap-up of the first Open Enrollment period under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, otherwise known as the ACA or Obamacare.
With that in mind, the time has come for me to officially declare my intentions for this website going forward.
Before anything else, I just wanted to say “Thank You”.
--Thank you to Markos, Chris, Greg, Linda, Susan, Jed, Joan, David and the rest of the Daily Kos team for arranging a fundraiser for me and this site, as well as their continuing support/promotion of the ACA Signups project.
--Thank you to Kossacks including ybruti, CJB, rugbymom, timmyc, rsmpdx, dadadata, Rolyboy6 and especially ArcticStones for helping crowdsource the data. Many others from dKos and beyond have been added to the data provider ranks as the site has grown in popularity, but you guys were there from the start.
--Thank you to Mokurai, who has been writing excellent daily "ACA Signup Roundup" diaries on my behalf here at dKos...usually doing a better job of explaining the developments than I do over at the other site!
--Thank you to Eclectablog, who gave me an additional platform to get the word out about the project.
--Thank you to the thousands of people who donated either via the dKos fundraiser or directly through the website.
--Thank you to those in the news media who took this site and our work seriously.
--Thank you to the half-million unique visitors the site has received since October.
--Thank you to President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party, who took the GOP’s half-assed, ugly, Frankenstein-of-a-Behemoth bill and somehow beat it into shape and somehow are making the damned thing work. (Quite frankly, I think they’re more pissed off that Obama managed to make their bill work than they would be if he’d managed to push through single payer or the public option, because of the embarrassment factor).
--And finally, thank you to my wife and son, who have put up with a husband/father who’s been essentially “MIA” for the past 6 months.
Originally, I had planned on only running this project (and thus, this website) until the official March 31st open enrollment deadline.
I assumed that a few days after that, the official numbers would be in, the spreadsheet & graph updated one final time, and I'd pull the plug on it. Mission accomplished, served its purpose, job well done, etc.
However, a few things changed between then and now.
For one thing, the HHS & CMS reports for March still aren't out.
For another, the #ACAovertime enrollment extension period was announced, with Oregon and Nevada taking it out to April 30 and May 30 respectively. Plus, of course, Medicaid, SHOP, Major Life Events (and, for that matter, Native Americans) all have no deadline under the law anyway; those are year-round.
SO...I recently committed to keeping things updated at least through mid-May, when the March CMS report is out and the April HHS report (which should wrap up just about all of the extension QHP enrollments) is released.
The second thing that happened was the media attention this has generated. Don't get me wrong, I'm deeply flattered, but it just seems odd that no one else happened to do this. In any event, my raised media profile makes flipping the switch off now problematic (although obviously the attention has already started to fade now that we're over the 8M / 4/15 line). I went from having a couple hundred hard-core ACA data nerds visiting the site (not an insult...I'm a data nerd myself) to several thousand people...and from there, to as many as 30,000 unique visitors per day.
Needless to say, more and more people started asking me if I plan to keep it running through the summer, through the fall, through the election? Granted, things are going to quiet down quite a bit on the actual enrollment side of things, but there will be all sorts of other related topics which come up along the way. And then, of course, there's the second open enrollment period, which starts on November 15 (right after the mid-term elections, natch). Who knows, maybe Massachusetts and Hawaii will actually have their websites working by then...
This left me with two main excuses for not keeping things going past May. The first was financial; aside from the donations (for which I am eternally grateful, by the way) and a few bucks from the banner ads (they don't really generate much, and I refuse to make them any more invasive than they already are), no one was actually paying me to do this, and I do have a family, mortgage, etc. to help support.
Well, then came the dKos fundraiser. The bottom line is that this turn of events certainly helped negate excuse number one.
The other issue is time. I do have a day job (website developer, remember?), and I have clients whose work I have already fallen way behind on. The donations help me tremendously, and certainly will make it easier to turn down some future work for the balance of the year, but it doesn't do anything to deal with the issue of the projects which I'm already committed to. I've let some of my existing clients down, and have to devote ample time to catching up with those projects over the next month or so, regardless of what's going on with this site or the law itself.
However, things should (I hope) calm down enough that I'll at least be able to get a handle on this problem.
So, I'm announcing here and now that, barring any major life change of my own which prevents me from doing so (personal/career/medical crisis, etc.)...
I'm officially committing to keeping things going through the 2nd enrollment period, which runs from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015.
However...who knows? Perhaps the HHS Dept. will change their policies and methodology on releasing enrollment data the second time around, and this site will no longer be necessary? After all, if they had done what I wanted them to do in the first place (release at least the top-line enrollment data on a weekly basis), I never would have felt the need to start this project. Maybe they'll do so for Year Two?
As for the banner ads, donations and "member accounts", that may morph into something else soon. Perhaps I'll add some extra "members only" content or user forums or something (although the comments section seems to be doing that job pretty well). Not really sure how to handle this; suggestions are welcome.
Or, perhaps interest will die off to the point that there's really no point in keeping things going any further, and I'll drag the site limping into 2015 as a whisper of its former self. We'll see how it goes.
Again, thanks to everyone for everything. It's been a hell of a ride so far. Where do we go from here? For myself, hopefully...eventually...single payer.
Until then, the ACA will have to serve as a gateway.