What happens if tens of thousands of consumers get their first insurance bill and discover they’re paying more than they thought? Or get a notice from the IRS that the subsidy they thought they were getting is incorrect? Imagine: pitchforks, tar, and feathers.

CMS officials and the large insurers thought at first that the garbled data being automatically sent to insurers must be a function of some very simple problems of format incompatibility between the government and insurer systems, but that now seems not to be the case, and the problem appears to be deeper and harder to resolve. It is a very high priority problem, because the system will not be able to function if the insurers cannot have some confidence about the data they receive. At this point, insurers are trying to work through the data manually, because the volume of enrollments is very, very low. But again, if that changes, this could quickly become impossible.

Given all of the above, what are the options going forward?

The nightmare scenarios, the “unthinkable options,” involve larger moves than that—like putting enrollment on hold or re-starting the exchange system from scratch at some point. No one seems to know how this could work or what it would mean, but everyone involved is contending with a far worse set of circumstances than they were prepared for. This is a major disaster from their point of view, not a set of glitches, and they simply do not know how long it will take to fix. They dearly want to see progress day by day, but they are generally not seeing it.

The canned response from many on the right is that the system was “designed” to fail or that Obama and the Democrats want it to fail so that a single-payer system can be implemented. It’s an interesting theory but not likely, as Jim Geraghty points out:

This is where you say, “It’s designed to fail! It’s designed to collapse the existing health-care system!” That’s a really compelling theory, but the catch is that it’s got Obama’s name on it and the Democratic party has built just about all of their political capital on the idea that it would work. Democrats would be betting that after completely fouling up their signature domestic policy and one-sixth of the American economy, the voters would trust them to give it another shot, this time making even bigger, more radical, expensive, and complicated changes.

Besides, for the conspiracy to work, a single-payer system would have to get through the GOP House, not to mention needing 60 votes in the Senate. Does anyone believe that after the internal bloodletting over defunding Obamacare there are any Republicans who would vote for their own electoral execution and help pass a single-payer system?

No, this is sheer incompetence, coupled with typical dishonesty from the administration. They may pay for it by owning the biggest boondoggle in American history — the failure of a government entitlement that could discredit the idea of big government for a long time.