Let's begin with the good-ish news for Obamacare: Leaked "enrollment" numbers indicate that roughly as many people selected a coverage plan through Healthcare.gov over the first two days of December as did in the entire month of October. Whether any of these people are, you know, actually enrolled is anyone's guess -- as is the percentage of applications that have been corrupted by data flaws. The administration is still being very tight-lipped about various error rates. Nevertheless, the website's front end is obviously improving:
About 29,000 people signed up for health insurance through HealthCare.gov on Sunday and Monday — a figure that surpasses the total for the whole month of October, an official familiar with the program told POLITICO. The quickened pace of enrollments came as the White House hit its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to fix the troubled Affordable Care Act website.
Sorry, Politico, but the administration did not "hit" its do-over deadline. The public side of the site still isn't "fixed," its technology is still almost comically outdated, it's security systems are frighteningly vulnerable -- and behind the curtain, the back end is still a mess. Jonah Goldberg does a nice job of puncturing Democrats' wishful "success!" declarations here. But even if one wants to view December's uptick in applications as a vast improvement, one must grapple with the larger context, summarized neatly by Allahpundit:
As for the enrollment (or “enrollment”) rate, 350,000 a month would be a major upgrade over October but it’s still far short of HHS’s pre-launch target for the website’s first three months. They wanted 3.3 million signed up by December 31st between the federal and various state exchanges. As of December 1st, Healthcare.gov had generated 125,000 or so sign-ups and the states had added roughly 80,000 in October with November’s data still to come. Assume that 250,000 people enrolled on the state exchanges last month, and that this month both Healthcare.gov and the state websites will combine for another one million sign-ups (a high bar given their track records). That would leave HHS at … 44 percent of its target on December 31st, even after the big December crunch. Even the website traffic data that HHS is touting is underwhelming upon reflection. A million visitors a day is nice, but (a) there won’t be a big splashy re-launch and accompanying presidential speech every day in December to hold the public’s interest, and (b) those one million visits produced only 15,000 or so enrollments, a success rate of just 1.5 percent. What should we conclude from the fact that more than 98 percent of people who surf over to Healthcare.gov surf away without having signed up?
Even using rosy projections, they're way off pace, a massive majority of visitors to the site don't enroll, and we don't know how each state's crucial demographic balance looks (although we've seen some dark clues and other related omens). The administration's happy talk is factually false and isn't fooling the mainstream press. Reuters:
U.S. insurers fear that a surge in enrollments on the revamped government-run healthcare website could create more problems for insurance companies already struggling with error-filled applications for coverage three weeks before a sign-up deadline. In what could become the next major headache for President Barack Obama's signature domestic policy, a group representing leading U.S. insurers said on Tuesday that technology fixes that will enable millions of people to sign on to HealthCare.gov have not fully addressed faulty data that the site has been sending these companies about their new enrollees. The problems include enrollment forms with erroneous personal information and duplicate or missing applications. In some cases, consumers who believe they have signed up may not have a file with the insurer.
A glut of new error-plagued applications will cause big problems in the near future. Insurers may have the manpower to track down and correct problems in a trickle of applications. If the trickle becomes a river (and again, people are *legally required* to obtain coverage) before the whole end-to-end system is working seamlessly, and you've got real trouble. Remember, the whole end-to-end system isn't even fully built yet. What Obamacare will end up with is people who think they're covered when they're not. That's why the White House is begging people to call their insurers to see if any record exists of their alleged transactions. Just like Travelocity! The Associated Press picks up on another problem that we mentioned in an update yesterday:
Government subsidies to help Americans buy insurance under the health care overhaul may be vulnerable to fraud, a Treasury Department watchdog warned on Tuesday in the latest indication that troubles are far from over for President Barack Obama’s signature legislation. The rollout of the law has been hurt by canceled policies and problems with the federal website used by people to enroll in health plans, causing political headaches for the White House and for Democrats in Congress. The new problems concern subsidies that are available to low- and medium-income people who buy insurance through state-based exchanges that opened in October. “The IRS’ existing fraud detection system may not be capable of identifying (Affordable Care Act) refund fraud or schemes prior to the issuance of tax return refunds,” said the report by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
I'll leave you with this glittering monument to tone deaf, self-unaware presidential speechwriting. Click through. Seriously.