This is a disaster, and it explains why the White House insisted on delaying the release of official enrollment statistics for as long as they have. Jay Carney has been warning that the initial figure is going to be "low," even when it's padded by the law's demographically-perilous Medicaid numbers. The only question was how low. The apparent answer: The number of Americans who have managed to sign up for Obamacare through Healthcare.gov over the last month-and-a-half could fit into Yankee Stadium, with seats to spare. The Wall Street Journal reports:
So far, private health plans have received enrollment data for 40,000 to 50,000 users of the federal marketplace, the people familiar with the figures said. The federal marketplace uses an industry-standard format to exchange enrollment information, known as an 834 transmission…In some cases, insurers have reported duplicated 834s and other data-integrity problems, but the people familiar with the matter said they believed these figures reflected an accurate count of enrollments through late last week…The initial federal numbers set for release this week are expected to show enrollment only through the end of October, so the figures are expected to be lower. Efforts to clean up the data and reduce duplications could further cull the formal count.
That last sentence suggests that duplicate applications may actually be inflating this pitiful number. Some additional perspective on how badly the administration is sucking wind, within the context of the government's own coverage benchmarks:
Add in another 50,000 people or so who’ve signed up on the individual state exchanges and you’ve got roughly 100,000 total enrollees through all of October and 10 days of November. The program’s target for October alone was 494,620. And that figure represents what they thought would be a “slow” month, as the public gradually got up to speed on the need to sign up before December 15th. If you’re looking at the bigger picture, they’re aiming for seven million new enrollees by March 31 of next year. They’re 1.4 percent of the way there with roughly 25 percent of the initial enrollment period having already elapsed. They’re in trouble.
Team Obama projected that roughly 500,000 people would have signed up by October 31. We're 12 days into November, and they're only about 20 percent of the way to their goal for last month. Don't forget, millions of people were told they would be able to rely on this site to comply with the individual mandate tax. As of this moment, approximately one hundred times* as many people have been dropped from their current plan (a shattered presidential promise) as have successfully enrolled in new ones through Obamacare. And the former category is expected to expand considerably over the coming months and years. An unmitigated catastrophe. Meanwhile, the federal website remains largely broken -- as are several of the state-based exchanges -- and time is running short. The White House says everything needs to be, and supposedly will be, repaired by November 30. That's looking less likely with each passing day; as the 'tech surge' brain-trust extinguishes one Obamacare fires, a new one sparks unexpectedly. We also know that early enrollees are skewing older and sicker, so don't hold your breath for much transparency within the data they release. The last thing the White House wants to do is to fuel the death spiral narrative by showing how few "young invincibles" are included in the shallow coverage pool. If Obama got an earful from nervous Democrats last week, imagine how ugly things might get as the 11/30 deadline begins to look like another high-profile bust. So what options does the administration have? As we've noted previously, most of the frequently-suggested "fixes" make matters worse by exacerbating existing flaws. Reinstating previous plans would be an unwieldy logistical nightmare, despite making for gloriously tasty politics. Healthcare guru Bob Laszewski says the White House needs an Obamacare "plan B" -- stat. He notes that no good options remain for Democrats, but says that things could get really out of hand in a hurry unless the president changes course. Obama may be casting about for a magical "fix," but experts can't fathom what it might look like. He may have no choice to punt almost all of the enrollment action over to the insurance companies he's been demonizing for weeks. And even if that last-ditch baton pass were to go relatively seamlessly, towering problems would still remain. I'll leave you with two items to ponder, both from the New York Times:
(1) A woman named Lori Gottlieb shares her story of being forced to pay much more for coverage she doesn't want. Her endlessly compassionate liberal friends have essentially told her to pound sand when she's expressed frustration over her situation.
(2) Consider the implications of this quote, attributed to President Obama:
"'If I had known,' Mr. Obama said, according to the aide, 'we could have delayed the website.'"
If only the President of the United States had known that his signature program was on the verge of melting down in a white-hot blaze of failure, he might have pushed back the implementation process. Is this credible? Concerns about the law's logistical readiness first arose in 2010 -- three years ago. The warning signs accumulated over time, exploding into the headlines in late 2012. Internal testing (or the lack thereof) foretold a cataclysmic roll-out. The president knew none of these things? Even if you accept the premise, the resulting conclusions are a scathing indictment of his Obama's out-of-touch, incompetent approach to governance. If he couldn't be bothered to keep tabs on this, why should he be trusted to tackle any government project on any subject? I expanded on this point with Gretchen Carlson yesterday:
UPDATE - The administration plans to use a loose definition of "enrolled" when they release their data. People who have accounts on Healthcare.gov and have placed a plan in their digital "shopping cart" -- but haven't checked out (ie, paid) yet -- will count. Smoke and mirrors.
*A previous version of this post contained a math error and understated the ratio of dropped-to-enrolled.