Jonah Goldberg

Success! The Obama administration announced over the weekend that it had hit its deadline of Nov. 30 for HealthCare.gov.

Of course, there were caveats. The site will still probably get buggy when there's a lot of traffic, which is why Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius advised people to use it at off-peak hours. But that simply means peak hours will be moved to after midnight. After all, you don't alleviate crowding if you tell everyone to try a different door.

Oh, and there will still be crashes, and occasionally the administrators will have to take the whole thing offline. But, HHS insists, the "user experience" will be boffo for the majority of users.

There's still one hitch. HealthCare.gov doesn't work, at all. Sure, it provides a remarkably realistic user experience, but as of now it's basically a video game. A really, really boring video game. Call it Sim Healthcare.

This is because the so-called back end essentially doesn't exist. That's the part of the site that talks to the insurance companies, processes payments and actually, you know, gets people enrolled on insurance plans.

Reports vary on whether it needs to be "fixed" or whether it still needs to be built. On Nov. 19, Henry Chao, the administration official in charge of overseeing the site, told Congress that "the accounting systems, the payment systems, they still need to be" created. Going by the rosy version of Chao's estimate, that was roughly 30 percent to 40 percent of the system.

"It's not built, let alone tested," one insurance executive told the Washington Post last week.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Sunday that the back-end systems "that are supposed to deliver consumer information to insurers still have not been fixed." I'm not clear on how you can fix something that hasn't been built yet, but maybe in the 11 days between Chao's testimony and the Nov. 30 deadline, the "A-Team" President Obama deployed built the back end enough for it to be recognizably broken.

Either way, it's not working. Think of it this way: Would you consider an ATM machine to be functional if it created a lifelike experience but didn't actually do anything with your commands? No money comes out, no deposits get credited, no transfers actually work, but the screen just tells you that everything worked?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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