For 31 days now, the Obama administration has been telling us that Americans by the millions are visiting the new health insurance website, despite all its problems. But no one in the administration has been willing to tell us how many policies have been purchased, and this may be the reason: CBS News has learned enrollments got off to an incredibly slow start. Early enrollment figures are contained in notes from twice-a-day "war room" meetings convened within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after the website failed on Oct. 1. They were turned over in response to a document request from the House Oversight Committee. The website launched on a Tuesday. Publicly, the government said there were 4.7 million unique visits in the first 24 hours. But at a meeting Wednesday morning, the war room notes say "six enrollments have occurred so far." ... The notes leave no doubt that some enrollment figures, which the administration has chosen to keep secret, are available. "Statistics coming in," said notes from the very first meeting the morning of Oct. 2. Contractor "QSSI has a daily dashboard created every night." But head of CMS Marilyn Tavenner would not disclose any figures when Rep. Dave Camp, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, asked earlier this week. "Chairman Camp, we will have those numbers available in mid-November," she said. Health and Human Services told CBS News Thursday it's in no position to confirm or discuss enrollment figures because it doesn't have any.
The "reliable" qualifier probably lets Sebelius duck perjury accusations, but it's clear that the administration does have enrollment data available to them. Sure, some of their numbers may be duplicates, and maybe the total figures aren't entirely comprehensive, but they could offer a fairly precise estimate if they wanted to. They don't, and therefore won't, for a few more weeks. Insurance companies might be able to shed some light on this information, but CNN reports that industry insiders are privately accusing the White House of exerting "massive pressure" to keep them quiet. Either way, the numbers must be awful. Indeed, White House spokesman Jay Carney is already tamping down expectations for the official announcement in mid-November, warning that initial totals will be "low:"
Carney on mid Nov numbers: enrollment will be low, but that always was the case— Greg Pollowitz (@GPollowitz) October 31, 2013
Was that "always" the case, though? The administration's goal for October sign-ups was almost 500,000. October's history. How many people have actually purchased coverage through the exchanges? We still don't know. If Healthcare.gov isn't working smoothly within the next four weeks, the administration's enrollment projections will be in deep, deep trouble. They need seven million Americans to join the exchanges in year one for the model to work, and that pool needs to include a large number of younger, healthier Americans. Tick tock. Another lowlight from Sebelius' testimony was her attestation that she had no indication that Obamacare's roll-out would be as disastrous as it turned out to be. Is that true? Once again, CBS News is on the case:
This confirms the Washington Post's report, which merely added another devastating data point atop a long list problems and setbacks that spanned many months. Meanwhile, those who are managing to sign up are facing restricted options -- on plans, hospitals and doctors. And some of the enrolled customers don't have an accurate picture of which options are available to them, thanks to yet another glitch. Frankly, I'm amazed anyone would plug in any personal data at all, in light of Healthcare.gov's "high risk" security issues the government identified before launching the site anyway. Before you go, a few quick hits:
(1) State exchanges, which liberals tell us are working so much better than the federal version, have been extremely costly to set up (north of $1 billion), and are still struggling. Deep blue Oregon's exchange has enrolled zero people so far. Still. Crunchy, feel-good television ads do not guarantee real-world results, shockingly.
(3) Obamacare sticker shock continues apace. Here's one Colorado navigator's telling experience:
"Thus far, everyone's taken a look at the rates, and they've walked out the door. It's sticker shock. They just can't afford it."
The "Affordable" Care Act, ladies and gentlemen.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography