Republicans and some Democrats are calling on the Obama administration to extend the open-enrollment period or delay the individual mandate in light of the rocky rollout of the Affordable Care Act. But Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius says that’s not an option.
“People’s lives depend on this,” she told the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday
“Delaying the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t delay people’s cancer, or diabetes or Parkinson’s…mental health services or cholesterol screenings or prenatal care. Delaying the Affordable Care Act doesn’t delay the foreclosure notices for families forced into bankruptcy by unpayable medical bills. It doesn’t delay the higher costs all of us pay when uninsured Americans are left with no choice but to rely on emergency rooms for care,” she added.
Gold star for Sebelius: It takes elephant-sized balls to remind the law’s critics that people’s lives are riding on this when HHS and CMS didn’t care enough about that to make sure the website was competently designed in the first place, which would have spared them this entire discussion about delay. They were too worried about what Republicans might say, or what others might say to them, to bring in contractors who would have built a functioning website from the get go. They’ve created a colossal mess where not only is the insurance industry facing adverse selection problems right out of the chute, but the millions who’ve been dropped from their plans are at risk of not having coverage on January 1 because the farking website won’t let them enroll. So this is the new White House spin, I guess: If you support well-meaning (but admittedly counterproductive) measures like delay to help Obama and Sebelius clean up their droppings, you kinda sorta want sick people to suffer. That’s how they’re going to buy a little more time. Emphasis on “a little.”
Speaking of which, remember how exactly six people from coast to coast managed to enroll on Healthcare.gov’s first day online? According to internal memos uncovered by Darrell Issa’s committee, they managed to get the number up during the rest of the first week to … “700+ enrollments.” That puts them on pace for 100 per day, which would mean 3,100 for the month; their target for October, you may recall, was just shy of, er, 500,000 enrollments. But what about paper applications? Not so good there either:
Serco, the contractor responsible for processing all applications by mail, “can’t process online the 500+ applications they have” because they can’t log in, an Oct. 8 memo noted. “They may be doing the opening and mailroom part, but they haven’t been able to link to the application and get people an eligibility determination.”…
The collection of paper created new problems, however. There were mounting “discrepancies between the paper applications and online system they need to populate,” one memo reads. In other words, many applications were incomplete without proper in-person follow up…
As of Oct. 27, roughly 4,000 applications had been entered into the system, with 1,400 in the process of being keyed in by a contractor, according to the memos. About 6,000 applications remain in the queue because of missing data or other issues. To handle the surge in applications, the Serco is boosting its staff of 1,800 to 3,800 by December, according to an Oct. 16 memo.
So, with just four days left to go in October, the big fallback option they were touting as a partial solution to the website problems had resulted in just 10,000 or so applications overall, around two percent of their target for the month. Except these aren’t even enrollments, they’re just applications. In order to proceed from applying to actually enrolling, they need to use the same crappy website that won’t work for anyone. Those 10,000 are more accurately described as prospective enrollees, then, which helps explain why Sebelius told the Senate committee this morning that the enrollment figures released next week will be “quite low.” If she cared about sick people, she would have anticipated all of this long ago, right?
Via NRO, here’s Sebelius describing her very exacting standards in recruiting “navigators” to help people apply for O-Care plans.