WH: Hey, Healthcare.gov is Finally Fixed!*

Posted: Dec 02, 2013 10:27 AM

*And by "fixed," they mean "better than it has been, but not actually fixed." The Obama administration's metrics for success are opaque and nebulous to the point of meaninglessness -- but that hasn't stopped Democrats from declaring victory, or something. Celebrate good times, America:

The Obama administration claimed victory Sunday for making HealthCare.gov workable for the vast majority of users, a standard that will be tested as millions of people flood the site in the next three weeks. Sunday marked the passage of the administration's self-imposed deadline for fixing the broken ObamaCare enrollment website, which serves consumers in 36 states. The agency that oversees HealthCare.gov said "we believe we have met the goal" of making the system navigable for most people, but cautioned that more problems may lie ahead. "Dramatic progress has been made," the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stated in a report released Sunday morning. "[But] there is more work to be done to continue to improve and enhance the website." The mixed message highlights the challenge facing the Obama administration as it seeks to ensure that millions can sign up for individual health plans online by the end of March.

Mixed messaging is the least of the White House's troubles. By touting yet another unfulfilled promise with more unearned back-slapping, the White House is widening its credibility gap. NPR's healthcare correspondent reports that it will be difficult to tell whether Healthcare.gov is sufficiently repaired as to furnish consumers with a smooth enrollment process. The media will be forced to rely on anecdotes and individual reports rather than hard data, she complains. Why? Obama's transparency "touchstone" strikes again:

That's the really frustrating part. I'm not sure we will, at least not at first. We do already know it's working better than it was in October — which, frankly, was a pretty low bar to get over. The administration has all kinds of fancy metrics to show how well the website is working, but we don't have our own independent access to them.

The evidence -- positive and negative -- will roll in over the next few days. Extrapolating much of anything from weekend data is a fool's errand because the site was down for hours on end, as Obamacare's tech surge team made one last frantic push. Nevertheless, Saturday was the White House's self-imposed, do-over deadline. CNN attempted to sign up for Obamacare on Sunday, and hit roadblocks almost immediately:

"We're getting another error message here, and it's supposed to be running smoothly."

As Team O waltzes into the latest trap they've set for themselves, a former member of the brain trust is engaging in some, shall we say, rather aggressive expectations management:

David Plouffe, former top adviser to President Obama, said on Sunday that the health care law will improve with age and that it may take years for the law to work at its best. “It may take until 2017,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It will work really well then.” Plouffe said that in a few years, when more governors set up state exchanges and expand Medicare, the law will improve and people will regain faith in Obamacare.

Just in time for Hillary's inaugural, right Dave? One wonders what endangered 2014 Democrats might have to say about that four-year time horizon. They're likely more concerned about more immediate bad press, like the Wall Street Journal's rundown of the "raft of problems" that will continue to plague Healthcare.gov in the coming weeks. (Americans have two weeks to enroll in plans in order to be covered on January 1, 2014). Kevin covered a number of the nagging technical difficulties on Saturday, but one major impediment is worth re-highlighting:

Insurance company sources tell the National Journal that there is still about a 5 percent error rate in the information the site submits to insurance companies on behalf of those picking a new insurance plan. If the site is fixed but this problem is not, the problem could get worse. People would sign on, fill out the forms, and insurance companies would be flooded with bad data. That would delay insurance companies sending out bills, which is the necessary step required for a person to actually have insurance by Jan. 1. For those in the individual market who have coverage now, if they don’t sign up by that deadline, they will be exposed. The administration says the problem—the so-called 834 forms—is at the top of the "punch list," but they have been saying that for months and aren’t saying how much progress has been made. If this glitch remains, people who believed they were on the verge of getting new coverage will wonder what's up.

Healthcare expert Bob Laszewski noted in late November that the error rate on these critical "834" transactions has been slightly improved, but not enough to ensure smooth sailing. If the back end of the process remains buggy (and under construction), the upgraded user experience on the front end will be a mirage. People will feel like they're making better progress, only to run into a logistical brick wall on the nuts-and-bolts of actual enrollment. Insurance companies will still encounter duplications, garbled and inaccurate data, subsidy problems, and so-called "orphan records" that are simply disappearing. Oh, and once the whole system is finally constructed, tested and working, Obamacare's systemic policy problems won't magically disappear. Americans will still have more sticker shock and another tidal wave of cancellations to look forward to -- with plenty of bruising access shock along the way. I'll leave you with Fox News Sunday piling on:

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