HealthCare.Gov's advertisements descend into self-parody

Is this real life?

“Pretty easy.” Mm hmm.

“You can be covered, too!” …Er, no, you must be covered, or pay the price of the individual mandate, and the faultiness of the website is currently preventing a whole mess of people from exploring their so-called “options.” Do you think they actually waited until after the start of the enrollment period to find people who had really and truly signed up for plans and then put ads these together, or is this kind of like how the White House shepherded a bunch of enthusiastic would-be enrollees behind the president for a backdrop on Monday morning but only a few of them had actually succeeded in doing so?

Of course, they’re not exactly going to feature the ongoing glitches in their advertisements, and they have no choice but to push hard for people to keep trying — most especially the type of relatively young, able, and healthy-looking people featured in these ads, who might be more easily discouraged or dissuaded from signing up. If only the older, more costly people with more health care needs are motivated to keep at it, it’s going to be bad news bears for the health of the system:

“The system needs to be operating reasonably efficiently — I’m not saying flawlessly — before the middle of November,” says Sandy Praeger, the insurance commissioner of Kansas, one of the 36 states relying on the federal marketplace because legislators there opted not to create their own state-based market. …

“If we’re not seeing a substantial improvement in the next two or three weeks, we’ll be in a bad place,” said Dan Schuyler, director of exchange technology at Leavitt Partners, a consulting firm. “We’re already behind the curve in getting to that 7 million mark.”

The risk in frustrating consumers is that those who are healthy or on the fence about enrolling may give up, leaving only the unhealthy motivated enough to persevere. That could drive up premiums in future years, potentially leading to what experts call “a death spiral,” where only the sickest people sign on.

“The people who will go back will be precisely the ones who need health insurance because they’ve got ongoing problems,” said , an economist at the American Enterprise Institute.