Are the Obamacare Exchanges Flopping?

by Jim Geraghty

From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Are the Obamacare Exchanges Flopping?

It was a safe bet that the Obamacare health-insurance exchanges would have high traffic on the first day. Curiosity, a widespread national p.r. campaign, and so on. The real questions were A) how many Americans could actually get through the process with the buggy software and B) how many would actually sign up for insurance through the exchanges and C) how many would be relatively elderly and sick (high cost to insure) and how many would be young and healthy (low cost ot insure). Without enough young and healthy people, the system falls apart.

Because it’s a government program, it just wouldn’t feel right if it didn’t include some official lying to us:

California’s health insurance exchange vastly overstated the number of online hits it received Tuesday during the rollout of Obamacare.

State officials said the Covered California website got 645,000 hits during the first day of enrollment, far fewer than the 5 million it reported Tuesday.

The state exchange had cited the 5 million figure as a sign of strong consumer interest and a major reason people had so much difficulty using its $313-million online enrollment system.

Dana Howard, a spokesman for Covered California, said the error was the result of internal miscommunication.

“Someone misspoke and thought it was indeed 5 million hits. That was incorrect,” he said.

Howard said the revised Web traffic still represents a huge response. He said the number of unique online visitors Tuesday was 514,000 and the state received 19,000 calls.

Estimates put the number of uninsured Californians at . . . 7.1 million.

So on day one they got 7 percent of the state’s uninsured to visit the site.

And when they can’t lie, they’ll just withhold the information:

Confusion persisted Wednesday around the long-awaited opportunity for Americans to sign up for coverage through new health-insurance marketplaces, with the federal Web site for more than half the states remaining balky and health plans uncertain whether they had any new customers.

The federal site,, was sluggish and flashed error messages much of the day. The Obama administration said the delays were simply the result of an initial rush of people flocking to the site — 4.7 million unique visitors in the first 24 hours — while some in the health-care industry suggested that the problem was more serious.

Officials at the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services insisted that some people were able to get far enough into the site to peruse their insurance options, find out whether they qualify for financial help and ultimately enroll in a health plan. But administration officials, for a second day, declined to disclose how many people actually had enrolled and where in the country they live.

We know that if the number was a big one, they would tell us.

It’s early, of course. But if the sites remain sufficiently glitchy, and an insufficient number of Americans sign up . . . maybe it will soon be the Democrats who want a delay in the individual mandate.

UPDATE: California exchange managers are now saying that the much lower number is erroneous . . . but the article doesn’t say what the accurate number is.

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