Surprise: WH Likely to Whiff on Do-Over Obamacare Deadline

Posted: Nov 13, 2013 1:05 PM

If you've read this, or this, or this, or this, today's Washington Post report is hardly a shocking bulletin:

Software problems with the federal online health insurance marketplace, especially in handling high volumes, are proving so stubborn that the system is unlikely to work fully by the end of the month as the White House has promised, according to an official with knowledge of the project. The insurance exchange is balking when more than 20,000 to 30,000 people attempt to use it at the same time — about half its intended capacity, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal information. And CGI Federal, the main contractor that built the site, has succeeded in repairing only about six of every 10 of the defects it has addressed so far...This inside view of the halting nature of repairs is emerging as the insurance industry is working behind the scenes on contingency plans, in case the site continues to have problems. And it calls into question the repeated assurances by the White House and other top officials that the insurance exchange will work smoothly for the vast majority of Americans by Nov. 30.

One of the administration's Obamacare techies is testifying on Capitol Hill today. Are there signs of regression?

The administration continues to insist that the site is on track to be fixed by the end of the month:

The Obama administration continues to stand behind its prediction that it will fix the Obamacare website "for the vast majority of users" by the end of the month, administration spokesperson Jennifer Palmieri confirms over e-mail.

Either they're foolishly lying to buy time, are they're still in the dark about real progress (and keeping their fingers crossed...again). Or perhaps this is all misdirection. An intriguing theory:

The White House's problem throughout this ordeal has been vast over-promising -- to the point of dishonesty. Could they be scheming to flip the script by making things sound worse for the time being, only to reveal that things are actually less bad than expected? It's possible, I suppose, but seems unlikely. Such a maneuver would entail coordination and competence, qualities that are in short supply within this administration. And pulling this rabbit out of a hat would also defy the evidence presented in the stories linked in the first sentence of this post. Beyond that, Allahpundit makes an excellent point: If Democrats are truly on the brink of breaking from the White House in droves, spoon feeding hysteria-inducing tales of woe to the media is a terrible way of maintaining team morale. Democrats are in the midst of a crisis of confidence. Ugly headlines are the last thing the administration needs. And CNN says trouble is still a-brewin':

The issue is that "coming up with a fix" is much easier said than done, for reasons I explained earlier. Liberal website TPM flayed Mary Landrieu's ass-covering "keep your plan" legislation in early November, explicating how her "solution" -- now backed by Dianne Feinstein -- actually undermines core underpinnings of the law:

Part of the problem is that this would unwind Obamacare's guarantees of quality coverage and affordable prices, which were the basis of two important -- and popular -- market reforms under Obamacare: community rating (insurers cannot charge sick people more) and guaranteed issue (insurers cannot deny coverage to anyone)..."If what she's saying is you can keep your health plan forever if you like it, that basically repeals the market reforms," Jost said. "You're continuing to allow people to buy a defective product. You're segmenting the risk pool again with respect for coverage...Landrieu's plan could also disrupt the premiums set by insurers because a chunk of their expected customers would no longer be enrolling in the marketplaces. "Mechanically that's very difficult," Jost said. "It basically denies people the community-rating advantages that were the whole reason -- or one of the reasons -- for the law in the first place. ... So you're just moving the problem down the road a bit, but in the meantime it really messes over the insurance companies because they've written their premiums based on knowing who their pool would be, and that's based on knowing what sorts of people would sign up early on."

Argument one: We shouldn't let people regain their "defective" plans. I'll let Obamacare supporter Kirsten Powers handle that one. Argument two: Obamacare's financial model can't afford not to gouge younger, healthier people. That's exactly right. Please make this point in public, Democrats. And good luck with that. Conn raises some fair concerns about a few flaws within the GOP-backed "keep your plan" bill, which will receive a vote on Friday. Landrieu's bill is simultaneously "better" and less feasible. But I'm with Jim Geraghty on this. The House-passed bill is exceedingly unlikely to become law, so Republicans shouldn't sweat the policy details. Seize the turn-key populist messaging and make Democrats squirm. They bought and broke this law. Let them own it forever.

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