Obviously, the website will get better. It could hardly get worse, short of a finding that it causes irritable bowel syndrome. Indeed, on the second day, the number of enrollees hit 248, according to the same leaked contractor memos. But the site needs to be able to handle tens of thousands of enrollees per day.
More recent numbers suggest that the federal exchange has enrolled about 27,000 customers since October 1, which amounts to about half an enrollee for each Obamacare “navigator.” (Someone in the White House is surely thinking, “Hey, let’s just hire another 14,000,000 navigators! Problem solved.) In order to rationalize that dismal performance the White House now must insist that they always knew the numbers would be tiny at the outset.
Here’s a number that isn’t tiny: Five million people — and counting — have lost
their health insurance, despite the president’s years of “you can keep your plan” promises. The president has apologized, sort of. He says he’s “sorry” that people have found themselves in a bad situation because of “assurances” he made. But no one has lost their insurance because of the president’s assurances
, they’ve lost their insurance because of the president’s law
. If a captain has the lifejackets filled with cement, his assurance that “you can keep your lifejacket” is only half the crime. Obama knew the lifejackets wouldn’t work. In 2010 he admitted that 8 to 9 million people in the individual market might “have to change their coverage” because of the law. And that’s just the individual market. Millions more will eventually lose the insurance they like because of Obamacare, according to the administration’s own internal estimates.
The cancellations aren’t a bug, they’re a feature, and the president lied about it over and over again.
And now the Democratic panic has begun. Terry McAuliffe almost lost his bid for Virginia governor because of Obamacare. Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina has seen her double-digit lead against a generic Republican all but vanish. Henry “let’s avoid a Third World experience” Chao is now insisting he never got the memo warning of “limitless” security problems. And, just this week, the big dog himself, Bill Clinton, announced he thinks Obama should honor the “commitment” the federal government made to Americans that they can keep their health insurance. Clinton’s brazenness is a marvel to behold, given that he surely knew all along that Obama’s “incorrect promise” — to borrow the New York Times’ latest desperate euphemism — was a lie and yet he happily defended the law. Moreover, he knows that honoring that commitment would, in fact, permanently gut Obamacare.
Which is one reason why Republicans are proposing a law that would do exactly that with the “Keep Your Health Care Plan” Act. This creates a miserable predicament for Democrats. As Jim Geraghty writes: “Can you picture the ads? Senator [Insert Democrat Here] voted for the Obamacare law that took away your health insurance . . . and then voted against the Keep Your Health Plan Act.”
Democrats are in the opening stages of the crab-in-a-trap phase. When crabs are caught in a trap they will try to climb out of their predicament. The problem is that other crabs will grab the would-be-escapee and pull them down. When the really nasty infighting starts, as countless Democrats look to fix or delay the law, I’m looking forward to pointing out that such an agenda was once considered “extreme,” even “racist,” by Democrats. Or to quote Harry Reid from last September: “Obamacare has been the law for four years. Why don’t they get a life and talk about something else?”
It would be great fun to watch Reid say something similar to the throngs of panicked fellow Democrats racing for the exits like the Irish peasants below decks on the Titanic. Reid, of course, is just desperate to buy time. He hopes to make it to November 30, the appointed date when the White House still insists it will be able to say, “Behold the power of this fully functional website!” Politically speaking, with every day still producing another terrible story for the White House, that is the sort of timeline that would make Godot look punctual. And that’s if they hit the deadline. So far, the press has been unable to produce a prominent IT expert willing to say on the record that the target date is feasible. Jay Carney is sticking to that promise, but the musky stench of fear, sweat, and urine wafting from the podium makes it hard for all but the true believers to put much stock in his words.
But let’s assume HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius makes the most of that copy of Web Sites for Dummies that a protester handed her at a town-hall meeting last week. Then what?
We have a hint from Colorado, where the state’s own version of Healthcare.gov has been up and running. Al Jazeera America interviewed one of Colorado’s exchange navigators a month after the debut. When asked how many people she had signed up, she replied, “So far, no one. Thus far everybody has taken a look at the rates and they’ve walked out the door. There’s sticker shock. They just can’t afford it.” Medicaid has been driving most of the enrollments, and those who have ended up in private plans are older and poorer on average than the planners had hoped.
Every day, the supposedly conspiratorial right-wing smear that Obama cared more about economic redistribution than he did about the middle class or economic growth looks more reasonable. Surely we’re allowed to say, “We told you so”?