Sunlight breaks through the clouds, November 21, 2013.
Olivia Harris/Reuters

‘It’s not all doom and gloom’

Updated
Condemning the Affordable Care Act and its problem-plagued rollout is easy, but when the White House insists things are getting better, that’s not just spin. Brett Norman reports this afternoon:
Tech surge czar Jeff Zients said that HealthCare.gov will be able to handle 50,000 users at a time by the end of this month – up from 25,000 now, thanks to hardware additions and software additions the team is putting in this weekend and next week.
 
He said that will enable the site to handle 800,000 people a day – “a conservative estimate,” he said in a conference call with reporters.
It’s important to note that handling increased traffic, while clearly important, is not the resolution to all of the website’s troubles. Accurately connecting consumers to insurers and providing reliable data on subsidies is just as important, and to date, these are areas with which healthcare.gov has also struggled.
 
That said, Zients told reporters all of these issues are being addressed, and the increased website capacity should – should – keep the larger enrollment system on track towards its 2014 goals.
 
Indeed, even before Zients’s media briefing, Sarah Kliff highlighted reports of a “November surge” in enrollments.
By the end of October, the federal government had counted 106,000 people enrolled into private coverage through the new health insurance marketplaces, a small percentage of the projected half-million sign-ups.
 
By mid-November, though, with the 14 state-based marketplaces reporting fresh data, that number had just about doubled to more than 200,000…. State officials say they are seeing an uptick in sign-ups this month. California, which has had about 80,000 sign-ups, is now reporting about 2,000 enrollments per day. New York and Washington reported double-digit enrollment numbers as of this week.
Kaiser Family Foundation President Drew Altman told Kliff, “It’s not all doom and gloom.”
 
Reports from several states where officials want the system to work are reporting impressive numbers for the first half of November. California, in particular, appears to be leading the way – and given that the Golden State is the nation’s largest, that’s good news for the overall totals.
 
The law’s proponents shouldn’t be Pollyannaish about any of this, and we have not reached the point at which the system can fairly be described as “adequate.” It’s just not there yet.
 
But the administration can credibly say they’re putting out the fires; they’re making steady progress; and they’ve moving closer to their goals. The panic is subsiding. The recent chatter that “Obamacare” is going to destroy the president, Democrats, the health care system, and the idea of progressive governance on a conceptual level hasn’t quite gone away, but it’s looking increasingly silly.
 
And while I’m reluctant to look too far ahead with so much uncertainty still surrounding the system’s functionality, I can’t help but wonder about what the political world’s conversation will look like if, in the near future, healthcare.gov is working as it should, enrollment is strong, costs are contained, millions are gaining coverage they previously lacked, and millions more enjoy health care security that previously didn’t exist.
 
I have a very strong hunch we would, under this scenario, see very few headlines that say “Obama fixes problems, brings health care security to nation.” Rather, folks would just move past the hysteria of the last month, start criticizing something new, and Republicans could return to saying, “Now, about Benghazi….”
 

Affordable Care Act and Obamacare

'It's not all doom and gloom'

Updated