Jeff Zients, the new tech czar in charge of repairing Healthcare.gov, was there too. Here’s another reason why I feel no schadenfreude over Obama voters having their plans canceled. I need to save all my schadenfreude for stories like this.
The meeting ran two full hours. Details are vague but I can guess what the main topic was. Tick tock.
The lawmakers’ chief concerns centered on getting the website repaired – even for lawmakers from states where the exchange is working – and ensuring that the data consumers submit is secure.
Many of them backed delaying the open enrollment period because of the problems, but administration did not indicate it wanted to do so, a source said…
The members at the meeting were Mark Begich of Alaska, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Chris Coons of Delaware, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Al Franken of Minnesota, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Mark Udall of Colorado, Tom Udall of New Mexico, Mark Warner of Virginia and Michael Bennet of Colorado, according to Senate aides and the White House…
All senators except for Bennet are up for re-election in 2014; Bennet is the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Roll Call has some enjoyable excerpts from the blustery statements released afterward by people like Begich and Udall, who are now desperate to signal their outrageously outrageous outrage over O-Care’s rollout to voters back home before the torches and pitchforks come out. I’m intrigued that they’re still pushing the idea of extending the enrollment period next year. In a sense, that jibes with what Sebelius said at this morning’s hearing about not wanting to leave people without coverage any longer; the longer you make the enrollment period, the greater the opportunity for people to sign up. Problem is, extended enrollment will compound the adverse selection problem facing insurers. You don’t want to give healthy people any reason to wait to enroll; you need them in the pool ASAP to help pay for the sick. That’s the whole point of having a mandate. If you extend enrollment, not only do you reduce the pressure on the healthy to enroll, you lengthen the time allowed next year for the newly sick and injured to get coverage to pay for their treatment. That’s the real reason Sebelius is nervous about tweaking the law’s timetable. There’s major risk to the industry in doing it — and yet here are Democratic incumbents ready to do it anyway in the name of saving their own asses. I wonder how long it’ll be before the White House and Senate Dems are openly fighting over whether to delay/extend or not. See why I save my schadenfreude?
But back to the big question: How much longer until the website’s fixed? The end of November is D-Day. Obama assured Democrats in today’s meeting that it’ll be ready and Democratic aides have been mumbling their agreement to reporters when asked, but there’s good reason not to trust the guy responsible for “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” Via James Taranto, here’s an insightful interview with a risk-management expert who agrees with the vast consensus that the new target date’s just not realistic:
Jones: Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius assured her inquisitors at a congressional hearing that her department has brought in experts that have a handle on the problems the site is facing. How confident should we be in Sebelius’ assurances?
Charette: Not very. They’re talking about dozens and dozens of items on their punch list—both in terms of functionality and performance issues. They’ve got just over 30 days to get through the list. Let’s just say that there are 30 items on it. What do you think is the actual probability of getting through testing them, making sure that the system works end to end and that there are no security holes all in a single month? How do you expect to get that done, knowing that every time you make a fix, there’s a high probability that you’re going to introduce an error somewhere else?
Jones: Let’s spin this forward a bit. How do you think this next month will actually go?
Charette: They said that they needed five weeks at the minimum to test it, and they’re still making all these changes. Where will that five-week window fit? If they had stopped right then and tested it for five weeks, they wouldn’t have been able to finish on time. And five weeks was probably the absolute minimum they needed, assuming everything worked. They’re patching the system as they go along and as Sebelius admitted, they’re doing very local unit tests (which, by the way, is what got them into this mess in the first place, with each contractor saying, “Well, my stuff works”). If they discover something major, they may have to run the whole system test again.
Even if they made it functional by December, Charette thinks security will suffer to the point that “it would be very surprising if there isn’t some type of breach, either at the federal or state level, by this time next year.” Security was, in fact, the focus of Mark Udall’s statement after today’s meeting. He knows what’s coming and is doing what he can to distance himself now.
Oh, by the way, and not coincidentally: Healthcare.gov’s chief tech guy is now quietly out of a job. Here’s Max Baucus at today’s hearing reminding Sebelius in full view of the cameras that he expects her to keep her promise to have this thing up and running by November 30th. Tick tock.