Ed mentioned this piece in an earlier post but I feel obliged to give it an extra nudge. There are glitches, there are serious glitches, and then there’s number-one ObamaCare fan Ezra Klein running pieces on his WaPo blog wondering if a single human being has yet managed to enroll in O-Care via the Healthcare.gov website. And as icing on the cake, the post is punctuated with an image of … a unicorn.
For the second time today: Am I awake?
The federal government has said that somewhere out in this vast country of 313 million people, where 48 million lack insurance coverage, someone has managed to sign up for health insurance on the federally-run marketplaces. As of yet, we haven’t tracked this person – or these people – down…
There are certainly lots of people trying to buy health insurance on the marketplace, that much is clear from my inbox. “I am trying to sign my wife up for an individual policy on Healthcare.gov and it’s still basically impossible,” one reader in Florida wrote to me Thursday morning. “I tried to create the account again and was told my username already existed for another account. I then closed the web browser and started looking around for a drink (if it weren’t 8:30 a.m…).”…
But the federal marketplace is a bit of a black box right now. There’s been heavy traffic, with over 4.7 million visitors since the exchanges opened for enrollment on Tuesday. The White House says some applicants have signed up, but didn’t say how many. Rumors in the insurance industry hover in the single digits; several health plans say they are unaware of anyone signing up for their plan. BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina says it has enrolled one person.
The good news? Since WaPo posted that this morning, they found someone who enrolled successfully on the federal exchange. His name’s Chad Henderson. It took him three hours and his plan cost him “a little more than I was expecting.” (Some enrollees on the state exchanges are finding the same thing.) And he’s now apparently spending most of his waking hours taking calls from reporters since he’s the only person they can find — in America — who can report a somewhat useful experience on the Healthcare.gov site. Obama tried to explain that away yesterday by claiming that the demand over the first two days has far exceeded expectations; in that case, how low were their expectations that they weren’t prepared for several million curiosity seekers on launch day of the most momentous social program in decades? Haven’t there been a few presidential speeches and a few thousand news stories over the past several weeks reminding people that October 1 was the big day? Did they … not understand that there might be a heavy load on government servers as a result?
Philip Klein tried setting up an account on Healthcare.gov this morning and had to eat an even tastier shinola sandwich than he did on Tuesday.
My Thursday morning attempt to login to the main Healthcare.gov hub that’s supposed to serve residents of 36 states, was greeted with a 404 error: “The requested URL /serverdown.html was not found.”…
Roughly 40 percent of enrollees in the exchanges will need to be young and healthy so that they can offset the cost of covering sicker patients and those with pre-existing conditions. Those with extremely high medical expenses are the most likely to endure whatever technical hurdles arise and keep trying until they’re able to successfully enroll. But those who are more ambivalent — the young and healthy with low medical expenses — could get discouraged. That would have disastrous consequences for the law.
For all of the outreach efforts by the administration and outside groups, word of mouth is likely to be the most powerful factor influencing people’s decisions about accessing the exchanges. The administration wants to get to the point where, if a bunch of friends in their 20s are talking about health insurance, one will say, “Oh, I went on that new Obamacare exchange and it was really easy and I was able to get affordable insurance, I’ll send you the link.” But instead, if too many people say, “I tried to buy insurance but the website was barely functional, and when I finally searched the plans they were more expensive than I thought,” it’s really going to dampen enrollment.
And that, of course, explains why even Ezra Klein’s site is mocking the White House for its incompetence. The more bad press HHS gets about the website from the media, including friendly media — especially friendly media — the more urgently they’ll try to fix it. Embarrassing coverage could be useful to ObamaCare fans, frankly, in fanning the fire that’s been lit under the White House’s ass. Although, honestly, even if the site was glitchy for a month, I think O and his big-data brain trust would find ways to put the word out comprehensively once it’s fixed. They’ve got a gigantic mailing list and experts in social media on staff; reaching “young invincibles” to let them know that Healthcare.gov is no longer as unstable as Geocities circa 1995 can’t be that difficult for them, especially given the stakes.
Via CNN, here’s Sanjay Gupta reporting yesterday on his experience with Kentucky’s state-run health exchange website, which did somehow manage to enroll a few thousand people — and, apparently, frustrated many, many more. Gupta says he spoke to roughly 100 people to see how things went for them when they tried to sign up. Results: 0 for 100. Exit question: Could free smartphones be the answer?
Update: The RNC piles on.