The WSJ‘s Monday scoop that around 40,000 to 50,000 people have so far managed to actually enroll through the federal exchange website would put the Obama administration at about an underwhelming ten percent of their October enrollment goal alone, or just over one percent of their total target for the six-month enrollment period; as Allahpundit already pointed out, those are hardly numbers worth wasting their collective breath over, since they’ll pretty much only serve to humiliate — but the administration has been promising all along that they will finally, officially release the first rash of enrollment numbers in a progress update in mid-November. I.e., right about now. What’s a hard-up administration to do?

Hey, here’s a wacky idea I can imagine being thrown around during the White House’s brainstorming sesh: The American layman might think that an ObamaCare “enrollee” is someone who has actually bought and paid for an insurance plan… but he could be wrong. Right?

Sarah Kliff at the Washington Post reports that the Obama administration will use a rather more inclusive definition than the ‘traditional’ one, and include both people who have actually purchased a plan as well as people who have an insurance plan sitting in their online shopping cart in their account:

“In the data that will be released this week, ‘enrollment’ will measure people who have filled out an application and selected a qualified health plan in the marketplace,” said an administration official, who requested anonymity to frankly describe the methodology. …

The administration plans to use this count of enrollees because that’s where their interaction with the healthcare.gov site ends, the administration official said. Insurance plans, rather than the federal government, are responsible for collecting the first month’s premium.

So, a rough translation would go something like: We don’t actually administer these insurance plans, so knowing when people have technically bought them is beyond our scope? What the what?

I have no idea how much that little maneuver will help them out — having a plan in your shopping cart means that you have made it through most of the HealthCare.Gov online process, and that’s still a crapshoot for a lot of people — but if it’s enough to make it at least vaguely sound like they are accruing some kind of total that doesn’t spell complete failure… count on it.