Obama Administration Not Making Any Promises on HealthCare.Gov

Moneybox
A blog about business and economics.
Oct. 21 2013 4:25 PM

Obama Administration Not Making Any Promises on HealthCare.Gov  

171616339
Can I get some health care here?

Photo by Pascal Guyot/AFP/Getty Images

At a briefing with journalists today at the White House, senior officials from the White House's Affordable Care Act implementation team weren't making any concrete promises about when HealthCare.gov would be fully operational. They swore that improving the user experience was priority No. 1 now that the shutdown is over and the threat of default is off the table, but they also emphasized the fact that consumer-facing websites are to some extent a work that's perennially in progress.

They also talked up the utility of nonwebsite entry points into the system, including the ability to mail a paper application form in and most notably to call in.

Putting a positive spin on things, they said that people appear to really value the opportunity to talk something as important as health insurance over with an actual human being. Still, it's fairly obvious that heavy reliance on phone calls was not part of Plan A for the rollout. One major tell is that the phone number—1-800-318-2596—is just a random string of digits rather than something more memorable. Health and Human Services runs a 1-800-MEDICARE phone number for questions about Medicare, but they didn't get 1-800-OBAMACARE or anything similar.

Advertisement

Now one question I had about this new emphasis on "alternate pathways" is whether that really solves the problem. After all, if you apply on the phone, that just means someone is on the other side of the phone call punching information into a computer. The officials assure us that the "data hub" that a phone answerer would be querying to run this part of the application does in fact work, so people should be able to sign up by phone regardless of problems with the customer-facing website. On the other hand, there are obviously substantial bottlenecks in terms of the actual number of people available to answer calls. This just isn't the way the administration anticipated people signing up, and to get real volume of people in plans, they're going to need to make the website work.

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

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
  Life
Outward
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.