The Obama administration claimed victory Sunday for making HealthCare.gov workable for the vast majority of users, a standard that will be tested as millions of people flood the site in the next three weeks…
The agency that oversees HealthCare.gov said “we believe we have met the goal” of making the system navigable for most people, but cautioned that more fixes lie ahead.
“Dramatic progress has been made,” the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stated in a report released Sunday morning. “[But] there is more work to be done to continue to improve and enhance the website.”…
Administration officials also acknowledge that some problems with HealthCare.gov have yet to be fixed. The severity of these issues is unknown, but it is possible that some errors have not yet been discovered.
The political dangers were clear to everyone in the room [on October 15th]: Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.; Kathleen Sebelius, the health secretary; Marilyn Tavenner, the Medicare chief; Denis McDonough, the chief of staff; Todd Park, the chief technology officer; and others. For 90 excruciating minutes, a furious and frustrated president peppered his team with questions, drilling into the arcane minutiae of web design as he struggled to understand the scope of a crisis that suddenly threatened his presidency.
“We created this problem we didn’t need to create,” Mr. Obama said, according to one adviser who, like several interviewed, insisted on anonymity to share details of the private session. “And it’s of our own doing, and it’s our most important initiative.”…
Publicly, Mr. Obama had said “interest way exceeded expectations, and that’s the good news.” But in a meeting in Mr. McDonough’s office that first weekend after the start, someone asked the question on everyone’s mind: Should we just take the website down altogether for a time so it can be fixed?
No, Mr. Park said, after consulting with the engineers in Herndon — the website needs to be up to see where the problems are. One senior White House official said they briefly considered scrapping the system altogether. They decided it was fixable.
Congressional Democrats sounded an optimistic note Sunday about the Obama administration’s improvements to HealthCare.gov by its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline. But Republicans offered skepticism about the Web site and, more broadly, President Obama’s signature health-care law…
“This is the equivalent of having a great item that you want to buy in the store but not being able to get though the front door,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said on CBS’s “Face The Nation.” “It sounds like the front door has been opened successfully now.”…
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and the first impression here was terrible,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) on ABCs’ “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “And I think it’s going to be an unfolding disaster for the president. There’s going to be some winners, there’s no question about that. But there’s going to be millions of losers, too.”
Will anyone be able to tell if the site is really fixed?
That’s the really frustrating part. I’m not sure we will, at least not at first. We do already know it’s working better than it was in October — which, frankly, was a pretty low bar to get over. The administration has all kinds of fancy metrics to show how well the website is working, but we don’t have our own independent access to them.
We do know a big test is likely to come on Monday, when people who have been talking to relatives over the long holiday weekend — or who wake up and suddenly realize it’s December and they want coverage in January — all try to sign on at once.
The problems with his health-care law are self-inflicted, and the damage now transcends questions about the law itself. It has infected his presidency more broadly.
He is in too much trouble right now to stand back and try to fully grasp what caused the health-care legislation — this grand vision — to be introduced with so many problems that even his most loyal supporters are clearly dismayed. What could he have done to prevent them? Did he, as his conservative critics contend, put too much faith in ambitious designs and the government’s ability to carry them out?
When they finally appear, the reports on how the administration used the three years since the measure’s passage will probably be damning on multiple levels. Complex law commingled with the bureaucratic politics of government regulation and the pure politics of trying to mollify many interest groups…
Maybe natural forces will turn things back in his direction, but that’s not a good bet, especially for a president who spent a session with historians talking about how to create a legacy. Can he take steps to force a turnaround and produce the results he imagined a year ago? That’s the issue for Obama now.
David Plouffe, former top adviser to President Obama, said on Sunday that the health care law will improve with age and that it may take years for the law to work at its best.
“It may take until 2017,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It will work really well then.”
Plouffe said that in a few years, when more governors set up state exchanges and expand Medicare, the law will improve and people will regain faith in Obamacare.