Hey, they'll fix Healthcare.gov eventually

“There will not be a magic moment at the end of the month,” this official says. “The site will get better day by day, month by month, and we will continue to improve it.” Jeffrey Zients is the man making it happen. You’ll be hearing more regularly from Zients next year, when he takes over from Gene Sperling as director of the National Economic Council. That job will put him in the unhappy position of having to talk to Republicans about the budget. At least now he only has to talk to bureaucrats about computers.

Zients, who worked under Peter Orszag at the Office of Management and Budget, was somehow always the guy tasked with taking on tough assignments and making sure things worked, says Kenneth Baer, his former OMB colleague. When the “Cash for Clunkers” program was stalled, Zients straightened it out. When a great backlog grew in the processing of GI Bill claims, Zients winnowed it down. “He knows process,” Baer says. “He knows how to assess a situation. And he knows how to manage people. People like Jeff.”

He clearly should have been there in August. But he’s there now. He’s not going to make everything perfect. And true, the website is only one issue. But it is the most visible piece of the law to most people. And if it gets sorted out—if there are essentially no new or ongoing news stories about the website disaster by January, and they’re even replaced by a few surprised, positive stories—the public view of the law will start to change. And even if the media isn’t paying as much attention, people will hear from neighbors and co-workers that they went on the website, and hey, it was actually fairly easy, and it worked.