Affordable Care Act Rollout

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How the Medicare Part D Rollout Was the Same — and Different — From the ACA

Medicare Part D is also known as the Medicare prescription drug benefit. It went into effect on January 1, 2006. (Getty Images)

Medicare Part D is also known as the Medicare prescription drug benefit. It went into effect on January 1, 2006. (Getty Images)

By Dan Diamond, California Healthline Contributing Editor

With the possible exception of one phrase — “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” — defenders of Obamacare have repeatedly invoked the same warning:

Don’t be too critical of the Affordable Care Act’s new marketplaces. Medicare Part D had a rocky rollout, too.

“The level of frustration for those using [medicare.gov] was pretty high in 2005, just like today.”  

“In terms of confusion, lack of knowledge, and misinformation, the current situation with exchanges resembles the situation that prevailed when Part D enrollment opened,” Daniel McFadden, a UC-Berkeley economist and Nobel laureate, told the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

Part D, “at the time that it was passed was actually less popular than the Affordable Care Act,” President Obama said in an NPR interview on Oct. 1, the day the new marketplaces launched.

There are similarities between the two programs, from the political fight over their enactment to the difficulties in making the laws a reality. But the laws differ in some important ways, too, including ones that supporters haven’t fully acknowledged.

So what can we take away from Part D? Here’s a quick guide to lessons from the drug plan’s rollout.

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