Ezra checks in on the administration’s progress:
The worry, at this point, is that the site is working in ways that are visible but broken in ways that are harder to see. The Obama administration won’t answer direct questions on the percentage of “834s” — the forms insurers need to sign people up for the correct policies at the correct prices — that are coming through with errors. Robert Laszewski, a health-industry consultant with deep contacts among the insurers, told the National Journal the problem is getting better, but that his clients are still seeing a five percent error rate. That’s still too high.
The systems that determine whether applicants are eligible for insurance are also improving. But inside the administration there’s a recognition that it was error-ridden in the first six weeks of Obamacare — and so the question is how to handle the many people who unknowingly received an eligibility determination that can’t be trusted.
Still, it’s clear that HealthCare.Gov is improving — and, at this point, it’s improving reasonably quickly. It won’t work perfectly by the end of November but it might well work tolerably early in December. A political system that’s become overwhelmingly oriented towards pessimism on Obamacare will have to adjust as the system’s technological infrastructure improves.
Garance rattles off some of Healthcare.gov’s remaining problems:
• Ongoing site outages. The site had outages both this week and last week. It turns out that fixing one part of the site can crash other parts of it, and CMS says it expects intermittent site outages to continue in the weeks ahead.
• Capacity issues. At the height of interest in Healthcare.gov, as many as 250,000 people were on the site at once—five times more than the site is expected to be able to manage on November 30 under the best-case scenario.
• The return of the dreaded waiting room. “There will be times that volume on HealthCare.gov will exceed … demand, and we are preparing for that,” Bataille said. “If we experience extraordinary demand, consumers may not be immediately able to complete the application. They will be queued, in order to ensure a smoother process, and will experience some wait time.” The new online version of “your call will be answered in X minutes” is being touted as better than the last version, an “online waiting room” in which people had no idea how long they’d need to wait.
• Novel glitches. New bugs will continue to be discovered and need fixing, especially since every new fix risks causing trouble downstream.
Drum prematurely declares victory:
Republicans have run out of time, and they know it. Their fixation on Obamacare already looks sort of balmy—this weekend’s deal with Iran was designed to draw attention away from Obamacare? Seriously?—and it’s only going to look loopier as time goes by. Getting Obamacare to the end zone wasn’t easy, and Obama almost fumbled the ball at the one-yard line, but he’s finally won. There’s nothing left for conservatives to do. Love it or hate it, Obamacare is here to stay.