Skip ahead to the 3:15 mark, hit 'play,' and fasten your seat belt. I'm speechless:
REP. CORY GARDNER: Well how much do we have to build today, still? What do we need to build? 50 percent? 40 percent? 30 percent?
HENRY CHAO: I think it's, uh, just an approximation, we're probably sitting somewhere between 60 and 70 percent because we still have to build...
GARDNER: Wait, 60 or 70 percent that needs to be built, still?
CHAO: Because we still have to build the payment systems to make payments to insurers in January.
GARDNER: Let me get this correct. Sixty to 70 percent of Healthcare.gov still needs to be built?
CHAO: It's not really about Healthcare.gov -- it's the federally-facilitated marketplace.
GARDNER: The entire system that the American people are being required to rely upon...
CHAO: Healthcare.gov -- the online application, verification, determination, plan compare, getting enrolled, generating the enrollment transaction -- that's 100 percent there.
GARDNER: But the entire system is 60 to 70 percent away from being complete.
CHAO: There's the back office systems, the accounting systems, the payment systems...they still need to be done.
Remember, the witness here isn't some random administration lackey. He's Obamacare's top IT manager -- the same guy who recently testified that he sounded alarm bells back in July that Healthcare.gov was headed for a "plane crash." He's also the man who first started muttering publicly about trying to avoid a "third world experience" in March. Speaking of March, an independent consulting firm issued similar warnings around the same time. We're to believe Obama knew about none of this? Back to today's hearing: Later in this exchange (around 4:20 of the video above), Chao makes a statement that may indicate that he'd reversed the percentages in his head, and that the system is "only" 30 to 40 percent away from being fully complete. On the other hand, an astonished Rep. Gardner drilled down on the exact figures several times, and Chao confirmed his 60 to 70 percent estimate. But regardless of the exact number, Chao's response is utterly devastating. Somewhere between 30 and 70 percent of Obamacare's online system has not yet been constructed or tested. They've had over three years (!) and more than $600 million (!!) to get Obamacare's logistical machinery up and running -- and they still haven't built the payment systems? An administration official told USA Today that consumers within the exchanges will be required to have made their first payments to insurers by December 15 in order to be covered on January 1, 2014. And yet:
Henry Chao: part of exchanges that transmits pmnts to insurers still hasn't been built. Not still hasn't been fixed; still hasn't been built
— Megan McArdle (@asymmetricinfo) November 19, 2013
Again, speechless. If Chao is right -- and why wouldn't he be? -- there will be a lot of people who think they're covered at the start of 2014, when in fact they are not. There are millions more who've been tossed off their existing plans, then have been unable to sign up through Obamacare's broken websites (or unable to afford the new prices), and will find themselves uninsured as of the first of the year. The magnitude of this failure is staggering, and it's very scary for those affected.
UPDATE - Earlier this week, the administration set an 80 percent success rate as its goal for a functioning Obamacare web experience. Chao just testified that the system isn't even 80 percent built yet. Remember how HHS wouldn't say what percentage of October's pathetic sign-up numbers represented fully enrolled, paying customers? I think we know why.
UPDATE II - Based on the context and additional reports, it seems that Chao meant to say that 60 to 70 percent of the system has been built, with 30 to 40 percent still to go. I've changed my headline as a result.