The Healthcare.gov Deadline

On Friday, the administration announced that, “By the end of November, HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.” Chait parses this promise:

The administration is obviously putting its neck on the line here. If it fails to hit the deadline, all political hell will break loose. (There is a little wiggle room, as the promise applies to “the vast majority of users.”) Therefore, presumably, the administration is extremely confident it can hit this deadline. On the other hand, it was also extremely confident it could have the site working reasonably well by October 1. So Obama apparently believes not only that his administration can fix the technical problem, but also that it has already fixed the managerial problem that caused it to underestimate its technical problem.

Ezra weighs in:

[T]here’s one more possibility: That the White House is simply buying time.

Saying they can this done by the end of November takes some of the pressure off until then. And if they fail, well, that’s such a disaster for the law that adding the extra hit to credibility that would be lost from failing the timeline is almost irrelevant. It’s like skinning your knee after cutting off your foot.

Drum adds:

If there’s a reason for caution, it’s this: teams that are fixing bugs are usually under enormous pressure to offer up the most optimistic date possible for getting the system working. This suggests that the end of November is the absolute earliest plausible date for getting the Obamacare website working well. Take it with a grain of salt.

Sarah Kliff chimes in:

[Late November], perhaps not coincidentally, is the point at which most health-care experts believe the site needs to be up and running without causing serious damage to the Affordable Care Act’s first-year open enrollment numbers. It gives shoppers a few weeks to shop for coverage and purchase a plan before Dec. 15, the last day to purchase a plan that begins Jan. 1.