HHS admitted yesterday that they were running into new problems on the site even as old ones were being debugged. Now here’s Jeff Zients, the guy who was brought in to oversee the salvage operation, telling reporters that victory remains distant even as the de facto December 1 deadline approaches.
Obama and Sebelius won’t leave Senate Democrats in the dark until November 30. Prediction: We’ll start seeing stories next week quoting unnamed sources in the administration about delaying parts of the law.
The Obama administration’s HealthCare.gov adviser Jeffrey Zeints said on Friday that the trouble-plagued federal healthcare website is improving, but that higher volumes of visitors are exposing new capacity and software issues.
In a conference call with reporters, Zeints said progress this week has been marred by roadblocks. He described HealthCare.gov as being “a long way from where it needs to be.”
Right now the website’s problems are running on a parallel track to Obama’s “if you like your plan” fiasco, but once O decides that he has no choice but to extend the enrollment period or delay the mandate, the two will merge. What do you do if you’ve just been dropped from your plan and the president’s telling you the website won’t let you enroll until after December 15, the deadline for signing up for a new plan if you want coverage to begin on January 1? Sebelius admitted today that there’s no specific proposal being considered by the White House (yet) to do something for the millions of people angry about having their plans canceled. Ace is right, undoubtedly, that Obama will eventually end up calling for more generous subsidies for new applicants to make the expensive new plans on the exchanges more affordable for the middle class — where the money for that is coming from, I have no idea — but that’s a secondary problem right now. The main problem is making sure they have some coverage on New Year’s Day, whatever the cost. What’s the plan for that? There … isn’t one yet.
It is unclear if the Health and Human Services Department has the legal authority to re-interpret the law’s definition of insurance plans that are “grandfathered” and could continue to exist, perhaps temporarily, under certain circumstances, even if those plans don’t meet the law’s basic benefits standards. The president has resisted suggestions on both sides of the aisle in Congress to extend the law’s open enrollment period beyond March 31.
Obama and HHS wrote the regs, didn’t they? Well, then they can unwrite them — I think. One of the complications of extending next year’s enrollment period is that the ObamaCare statute itself says that Sebelius has to specify the enrollment period by July 1, 2012. There may — may — be other deadlines that have already passed related to the regs about grandfathering old plans, which would complicate O’s ability to re-grandfather those plans. I’m no expert on the law so I’m not sure, although one of Boehner’s spokesmen said today, “We are highly skeptical that there is anything the President can do administratively to keep his pledge that would be both legal and effective.” Then again, Obama hasn’t let illegality stop him from solving ObamaCare’s “problems” before: He made the employer mandate, which is required by the statute itself, go bye-bye, so he could presumably do the same to any limit on his power to re-write the grandfathering regs. Although, if he’s going to do that, the cagey play would be to ask Congress to do it instead. Not only would that solve his legality problem, it would put Republicans on the spot. Would they resist joining Democrats on a bipartisan re-grandfathering bill given how much effort they’ve spent over the last few weeks lamenting the predicament of people whose plans got canceled? I doubt it, but I don’t know.
Here’s Obama explaining that he doesn’t write code but if he did he’d fix the website himself, which I guess makes up for his gross negligence in failing to oversee the people on his staff who do write it. Oh, by the way — the “important announcement” that Sebelius made today is that … she’s extending regulations about mental-health parity that were already enacted under the Bush administration to plans under ObamaCare. They said the new plans would be more “comprehensive” and they meant it. Now, about those premiums…