Will HealthCare.gov Be Fixed in Time to Save Obamacare?
The New York Times reports that an IT expert says "as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly." Rich Lowry likens the website to the The Walking Dead, pointing out that "it must be dawning on the White House that it is presiding over a fiasco that not only threatens the viability of its health-care law, but the president’s central conceit that the mandarins of the administrative state are wise and capable enough to manage a large portion of our national life."
The problem the administration has is that without a functioning website, consumers cannot easily sign up for insurance. A day is coming -- certainly no more than a couple of weeks away -- when HealthCare.gov must be operational or there will not be enough time for people to comply with the law and avoid the fine. This will result in delaying the implementation of the individual mandate and perhaps other parts of Obamacare as well.
Megan McArdle writes of the Obamacare "Death Spiral":
Without the exchanges, the death spiral seems almost assured. The amount of work required to find a policy, figure out your subsidy, buy coverage and file the paperwork will be very high. And it’s unlikely that folks who can’t even be bothered to go to ehealthinsurance.com right now will do it. The Affordable Care Act made the task of signing up young healthy people on the exchanges even harder with its much-loved requirement that companies allow kids to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26, which took millions of potential buyers out of the pool. The ones who are left are going to be disproportionately poorer and less well educated than the middle-class offspring who can get cheap insurance through mom and dad. There’s a reason that virtually every person you’ve seen written up in an article as they tried to get insurance at a community center or clinic is some combination of over 55, retired or afflicted with a serious chronic condition.
Once the death spiral happens, it’s very difficult to recover from. That’s why if the exchanges don’t work soon, we need to hit the reset button and try again next year. This will be very, very difficult: Insurers are already selling policies under the new regulations, and those regulations have driven up costs for existing buyers. People who have been counting on being able to buy insurance through the exchanges will have to spend another year without. And of course, it will be politically embarrassing. But it will be even more politically embarrassing to get to December and find out that we have commanded millions of Americans to buy insurance on a system that doesn’t work. And it is not a good bargain to cover some people now, but in doing so, to make insurance unaffordable for millions more in a few years. If we can’t launch the system correctly, then we need to wait until we can.
McArdle mentions a "drop dead date" for Obamacare of November 1. If the site "cannot reliably process 50 percent of its users on Nov. 1 -- and I mean from end to end, including sending a valid enrollment file to the insurer -- then the administration should ask for a one-year delay of Obamacare’s various regulations, including the individual mandate."
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