Obamacare Signups Are Way Behind Schedule

A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 17 2013 10:56 AM

Obamacare Signups Are Way Behind Schedule

1382021715

Photo illustration by author.

Back on September 26, my colleague John Dickerson wrote that "On the eve of this long-fought-over moment—the day Obamacare takes affect—President Obama’s best sales tool may come down to a website: healthcare.gov."

That in turn is a powerful reminder of the fact that through the end of September key administration officials seem to have had genuinely no idea of how screwed up the technical infrastructure of the federal exchange websites was going to be. When briefing journalists about their plans to roll the program out, they were very proud of their website and felt that people were going to find it very useful and be pleasantly surprised. Today we learn from the Associated Press that the Department of Health and Human Services was targeting 500,000 signups by the end of October which seems—shall we say—unlikely at this point.

The great political irony of the past several weeks is that the government shutdown Republicans had engineered in an doomed effort to defund Obamacare was obscuring attention from a very real threat to Obamacare—the technology mostly doesn't seem to work.

Advertisement

This is the kind of thing that if it gets fixed in time, nobody will care about in 10 or 5 or even 1 year. But there really is a problem if it doesn't get fixed in time. Insurance risk pools need scale to really work, and to be viable you need to make sure you sign up plenty of youngish people who don't have acute health care needs. That was always going to be a difficult lift, but it's one the administration was very much prepared for. These technical problems, however, are throwing them off their game plan and if they persist too long will make it hard to make the numbers the program needs to succeed.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.