The Campaign Spot

Obamacare: More Insurance Losers Than Enrollees So Far

From the last Morning Jolt of the week:

So Far Under Obamacare, More People Have Lost Insurance than Enrolled

Campaign Spot’s increasingly regular contributor, IT project management expert Bruce Webster, writes in again:

Lots of people are going around quoting Fred Brooks now — both the “mythical man-month” concept as well as Brooks’s Law (“Adding manpower to a late project makes it later”).

But there’s something else Brooks said with regards to projects that are running late that is directly relevant in the context of the “tech surge”: “Take no small slips.” In other words, if you know a project is going to be late, or if it already is, and you have to come up with a new anticipated release date, you should significantly over-estimate how much time it’s going to take to get it right. (In essence, a recasting of the old engineering maxim to “under-promise and over-deliver.”) It is far better to estimate that you’ll need an extra six months and deliver in four or five, than to estimate that you need one or two months and then deliver in four or five.

I know that rule, or a version of it. I’m just used to seeing it attributed to chief engineer Scotty from Star Trek.

Of course, the natural tendency on the part of HHS & the Administration will be to minimize the estimates of how long it’s going to take to fix things — and those estimates will almost certainly be wrong. So what we may see is the “Never-Ending Story” pattern, where for several months they’re perpetually 4-6 weeks away from having Healthcare.gov working properly.

If I were in charge? I’d pull the plug completely and give no completion date at all until the website reconstruction was at a point where I felt comfortable opening it up for public alpha testing. Based on how the alpha testing went, I might announce a subsequent date for beta testing; and if that went well, then and only then would I announce a planned date to go live. (Here’s some background on alpha test/beta test/release: http://bfwa.com/2013/10/10/an-approach-to-software-release/).

Of course, the administration can’t do that. They need to heave Hail Mary passes from here on out, and hope the thing suddenly and miraculously starts working like the hyperdrive of the Millennium Falcon at the end of The Empire Strikes Back.

Despite Joe Manchin, the administration is holding fast on the deadline to have insurance (as opposed to the open enrollment period, which is different). They’ve staked everything — including their stance during the government shutdown — on the mandate kicking in on March 31, and this whole thing working properly by that date.

Also, expect the coming days and weeks to feature a big focus on how many of the “enrollees” are from expanding Medicaid, as opposed to purchasing insurance.

Avik Roy:

Therefore the 476,000 number [the administration released] is misleading. My best guess is that for the 17 states that have reported out some data, the number is closer to 193,818 applications (once you pull out the Medicaid applications that have been reported on).

And here’s the devastating statistic you’ll see cited until the numbers change:

Over 500,000 individuals have seen their insurance policies cancelled in just 3 states. In all 50 states, only 476,000 applications have been “filed” in an exchange.

In short, Obamacare has caused more people to lose their health insurance than gain it so far.

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