Uh oh: D.C. ObamaCare exchange announces website won't be able to calculate subsidies until November

Read it now so that you know what Boehner and McConnell are talking about next week if/when they start pounding the table for a one-year delay for the individual mandate. The more smoke we see coming from the exchanges, the stronger that case becomes.

Right, Mark Pryor?

While the D.C. Health Link will launch a Web site on October 1, shoppers will not have access to the their premium prices until mid-November. The delay comes after the District marketplace discovered “a high error rate” in calculating the tax credits that low- and middle-income people will use to purchase insurance on the marketplace.

The insurance marketplaces, if working as plan, are supposed to spit out an estimate for a tax credit after a shopper enters in some basic information about where she lives and how much she earns. In the District, that won’t happen next month. Instead, the eligibility determination will be made “off-line by experts” by early November…

A spokesman for the D.C Health Benefit Link tells my colleague Lena Sun that this glitch is specific to the District’s marketplace, and separate from reports on a similar challenge facing the federal marketplace.

It’s “separate” in the sense that the agencies building the local and federal marketplaces are different, but as evidence that O-Care’s not ready for prime time, they’re very much the same. The punchline here, as Ed notes via e-mail, is that WaPo was touting the D.C. exchange for small businesses just two days ago as a model of preparedness while federal administrators were busy struggling to get their own exchanges up and running by October 1. That in itself was a joke because, as Ed explained on Monday, D.C.’s a small market where the vast, vast majority already have insurance. If any jurisdiction should be ready to roll on launch day, it’s that one. Instead, the logistics of calculating subsidies for individual enrollees are evidently so daunting that Health Link had no choice but to absorb the humiliation of announcing this postponement. Imagine how tremendous the political pressure must have been from Obama’s O-Care deputies on D.C. to work out these bugs before ObamaCare opponents had another tale of disarray to spread. And still, they couldn’t figure things out. The result: A new black eye for O-Care on the very day Ted Cruz is in the news for his big anti-ObamaCare floor speech. The fact that it was Ezra Klein’s overwhelmingly pro-ObamaCare “WonkBlog” that broke the news is just icing on the cake.

Big question now: If D.C.’s in as bad a shape as this, what shape are other exchanges that need to serve bigger, more complicated markets in? I wonder if Obama and Reid might entertain a GOP demand to delay the law for awhile simply because the potential political headache of a disastrous October 1 rollout has gotten too likely and too large. They don’t want the uninsured trying to sign up next week and then getting frustrated and giving up when the websites don’t work correctly. At this point, maybe it’s worth the risk of putting the exchanges off for awhile to work out the bugs, even if that means giving the GOP more time to build grassroots opposition to the law.

Oh, by the way: Bloomberg News revealed this morning that, for the first time in his presidency, Obama’s favorable rating (which is distinct from his job approval) is now underwater. Think he’s primed right now for a big ObamaCare clusterfark in October?