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Is Obamacare Finally Turning the Corner?


Though most everyone was stunned last week by Henry Chao’s testimony that 30–40 percent of the Obamacare website remains to be built, WaPo reports today that the White House is optimistic about Work on the website will continue past the original November 30 deadline, but its mangers think it will be working in time to handle the expected end-of-year surge:

A combination of software fixes, design changes, added hardware and newly announced wiggle room should provide the right combination to finally deliver a workable website, White House troubleshooter Jeffrey Zients said in an upbeat assessment. Zients is a management consultant parachuted in by the White House to extricate President Barack Obama from a technology debacle that has sent his poll ratings into a nose dive….

The site is now able to handle about 25,000 users at the same time. Zients said upgrades during downtime this weekend will put it on track to handle 50,000 simultaneous users, close to the level originally envisioned. It translates to about 800,000 visits a day.

Well, this sounds familiar. Obama was very optimistic right before the launch of the site, and even during its first stages when it wasn’t working. And the article mainly discusses the front-end load time problems, not the back-end problems Chao’s testimony highlighted.

Nevertheless, as poorly as the Obama administration has handled the entire Obamacare rollout, it seems unlikely it would make the same mistake twice, talking up a site unready for prime time. As Glenn Reynolds as put it, before the launch clearly nobody was sleeping with the techies. But if Zients is now willing to go on record saying the site’s prospects are improving, it’s a safe bet the White House made sure he could back up that assessment.

If that’s the case, the administration may soon be able to slowly move on from the website fiasco, and the Obamacare debate will return to the larger impact of the law. A functioning website may be one load off the President’s shoulders, but it doesn’t mean the ACA public relations mess will just go away. Bad first impressions are very hard to dispel. Moreover, critics will be able to continue highlighting ongoing stories of cancellations, rate shock, and doc shock. The website disaster was a large factor fueling disapproval with the law, but it wasn’t the only one. We don’t know enough yet to predict what will happen in the post-website disaster phase of Obamacare, but if it involves continued access and price disruptions, Obama’s problems are far from over.


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  • brad lena

    if the administration has a choice between the truth and politically expedient lie it will choose the lie

  • rpm73

    A small quibble, but I think the headline should be edited to read “Is the ObamaCare *Website* Finally Turning the Corner?”

  • Fat_Man

    The administration has already demonstrated a lack of candor about Obamacare and its implementation. I think we should not say that it has turned a corner, or what kind of corner it has turned, until such time, if ever, as it actually has turned a corner.

  • ljgude

    The implosion of a large software project isn’t like a military surge of elite troops. Even if you throw top programmers at a stalled project it was discovered at IBM in the 70s that the project slows down. The Mythical Man Month tells the story. I believe the fixers that have been called in would have read that book, and may have found a way to avoid making the problem worse. But a software problem that big isn’t going away just because the end of the month rolls around. I would expect more of what we are getting now – gradual improvement. I think WRM is right to say that we don’t yet know how the ACA will work out. I think that process has clearly been delayed by the computer problems and I think the delay is likely to reduce the final effectiveness of the law. What will be critical for the bill’s future is what percentage of people end up paying more or are forced to accept poorer coverage or both. They will be very unhappy. The more of them the worse for the new system. Then there are those who end up paying the fine. They will not be happy either. The more of them the more the rest will have to pay. The bill may muddle through, but it seems to me to have some really major built in flaws that could …er let’s say…. unhorse it.

  • Kevin

    I suspect Dec 1 is not the crucial deadline, early January will be. That is the point people who have bought (or tried to buy or thought they bought) shiny new Obamacare insurance will start going to doctors, pharmacies and hospitals. If their insurance doesn’t cover them it will be a much bigger deal than a broken website. If the rumors that insurance companies aren’t getting data from the website or it is so corrupt they can’t process enrollments are true, and thus people who thought they had coverage don’t in fact have it, this will begin a whole new level of failure for the rollout. Buggy websites are one thing, people denied care or coverage will be a PR disaster.

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