Is Obamacare a Train Wreck?

In today’s NYT is an article on the initial failure of the Obamacare website’s functioning (healthcare.gov) that nevertheless contains a ray of hope:

Administration officials have said there is plenty of time to resolve the [portal] problems before the mid-December deadline to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1 and the March 31 deadline for coverage that starts later. A round-the-clock effort is under way, with the government leaning more heavily on the major contractors, including the United States subsidiary of the Montreal-based CGI Group and Booz Allen Hamilton.

One person familiar with the system’s development said that the project was now roughly 70 percent of the way toward operating properly, but that predictions varied on when the remaining 30 percent would be done. “I’ve heard as little as two weeks or as much as a couple of months,” that person said.

Obamacare’s future could hinge on whether portal problems are fixed on a timeline closer to two weeks than two months (two months would run it past the December 15 deadline for January 1 coverage).

Still, despite the botched October 1 roll-out of the federal website, individual states have already enrolled significant numbers of people into Obamacare in just the first two weeks (New York, 40,000; California, 16,000; Kentucky, 18,000). If California, for example, manages to enroll 50,000 people before the end of this month, and 200,000 more before mid-December, and the rest of the country combined enrolls, say, another 250,000 people before mid-December, that’s a half-million Americans who will have insurance by January 1. And if each of these 500,000 citizens has (on average) one dependent, that’s a million Americans with access to affordable health care beginning in 2014 who wouldn’t have had it otherwise.

And let’s extrapolate out from January 1 to March 31st (the last day of enrollment for 2014). If those three months see an additional one million enrollees, that would bring the number of newly insured (including their dependents) up to about three million. With or without a glitchy federal internet portal, that’s not bad and not something it will be politically easy for Republicans to say they want to undo. The NYT on Friday quoted Peter Lee, the executive director of Covered California, as saying the following at a Sacramento news conference on Tuesday: “You can’t derail something when it has already left the station. We are going very strong.”

That doesn’t sound like a train wreck, but a train that’s on its way to squashing some nay-saying Republican politicians.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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