Politics

White House not exactly brimming with confidence for the big HealthCareDotGov relaunch

White House not exactly brimming with confidence for the big HealthCareDotGov relaunch

Judging by this New York Times article, the White House is not placing any bets on the big November 30 ObamaCare relaunch, as it urges passengers to re-board the ObamaCare train wreck in an orderly fashion:

White House officials, fearful that the federal health care website may again be overwhelmed this weekend, have urged their allies to hold back enrollment efforts so the insurance marketplace does not collapse under a crush of new users.

At the same time, administration officials said Tuesday that they had decided not to inaugurate a big health care marketing campaign planned for December out of concern that it might drive too many people to the still-fragile HealthCare.gov.

With a self-imposed deadline for repairs to the website approaching on Saturday, the administration is trying to strike a delicate balance. It is encouraging people to go or return to the website but does not want to create too much demand. It boasts that the website is vastly improved, but does not want to raise expectations that it will work for everyone.

“We are definitely on track to have a significantly different user experience by the end of this month,” Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said Tuesday. “That was our commitment.”

No, Secretary Sebelius, that was not your commitment.  Your commitment was total and complete functionality on November 30.  The Administration has moved the goalposts quite a few times since then, but some of us remember where they were originally located.

If Obama and his team of liars and incompetents had responded to the crash of HealthCareDotGov by mumbling something about “a significantly different user experience” by the end of November, there would have been full-blown panic, especially among the imperiled Democrat caucus in Congress.  But as usual, the ObamaCare con artists said whatever crazy thing they needed to say, to survive a rough news cycle.  The old promises about a fully operational exchange system are now discarded and forgotten, just like the YouTube video that supposedly caused the Benghazi attack.

Sebelius is apparently still holding rah-rah sis-boom-ba “get ‘em all signed up!” conference calls, even as flop sweat pours from the software team and they stammer warnings about the disaster that will ensue if too many people hit the exchange website on the much-touted relaunch day.  Which just happens to fall on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Maybe Team Obama should have checked the calendar before choosing that date.  Or maybe they did, and were hoping the holiday weekend would give people better things to do than play around with TrainWreckDotGov and see how far they can get before it crashes.  They really should have thought twice before advising all their little minions to ruin Thanksgiving dinner with ObamaCare propaganda… on a day when the help line won’t be taking calls.  That could prove unfortunate for any Obama Zombies who decide to show their skeptical uncles just how easy it is to buy insurance on the new and improved website.

“Our concern is that we want to make sure that people have the right expectation going into this,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the White House communications director. “Early October was a frustrating experience for users. We are preparing for the outcome that we have as many or more visitors as we had on Oct. 1.”

About 4.7 million people visited the website on that first day, the administration said.

White House officials offered a similar message on Monday in a meeting with some of their allies, including the Service Employees International Union and Enroll America. Both groups had pledged to work hard to drive traffic to the website.

In the meeting, Ms. Palmieri said, officials urged the groups to hold back, at least for the first several days of December, to see how much traffic the website is getting. Ms. Palmieri summarized the message: “Our recommendation is that we expect there to be really high traffic. You shouldn’t be driving traffic.”

What an unpleasant mixture of apprehension and wishful thinking!  We hope zillions of people are chomping at the bit to visit our website, but God forbid they should actually do it, because the shaky pile of crap code will collapse again.  How does the White House spin things on Monday if demand for the “relaunched” website is nowhere near the (frankly unimpressive) Day One visitor count?  But how can they spin their way out of the disaster that would ensue if it was?

It sounds like the computer guys are expecting just such a disaster, as crisis manager Jeff Zients grabs those well-worn HealthCareDotGov goalposts and tries to carry them a few dozen yards further into the parking lot:

“The system will not work perfectly,” Jeffrey D. Zients, who took over management of the website repair effort, told reporters on Friday. He said the site would be able to handle 50,000 users, but added, “To be clear, there will be times that volume on HealthCare.gov will exceed this capacity.”

Luke Chung, the president of FMS, a database company in Virginia, said building the website to handle 50,000 simultaneous users was “not unreasonable.” But he said the government must be prepared to handle much larger numbers at peak times like Dec. 23, just as the Internal Revenue Services does at the tax filing deadline in April.

In an effort to ease pressure on the website, officials have created what they call a waiting room for times when the site is operating slowly. People can ask the government to notify them by email of a better time to use the site, and they will then go to the front of the line, officials said.

Oh, they’re going to dump everyone into an online waiting room to cool their heels while the crap website chugs data?  You’ll get an email when Barack Obama’s $500 million website is finally ready to let you create an account?  Take it away, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley!

There’s a ticking clock here, as the deadline for 2014 insurance enrollment is hard upon us.  It’s nominally December 23, but in practice, given the time it takes to process information and the legally required first premium payment, it’s even sooner than that.  (The original deadline was December 15, but in a tacit admission of the colossal disaster ObamaCare has caused, the Administration somehow contrived to push it back until the 23rd.  Enjoy your working holiday, insurance industry employees!)  It’s already pretty much impossible for the five million people who lost insurance under ObamaCare to meet that deadline, even if the website is running at 100 percent capacity… and the Administration is basically crossing its fingers and hoping it gets close enough to 80 percent to claim success, and prevent terrified congressional Democrats from bolting.

The other problem with a rush of customers hitting the relaunched HealthCareDotGov front end is that it will expose the horrific problems still plaguing the back end, a behind-the-scenes catastrophe kept largely hidden by the failure of the website that consumers see, and the fact that some of those systems haven’t really come into play yet.  National Journal took a look at the systems that aren’t working yet, following the astonishing admission by ObamaCare IT honcho Henry Chao to Congress that at least 30 to 40 percent of the total package remains to be built:

The first unbuilt system focuses on financial management. Because consumers can have their tax subsidies advanced to reduce the cost of their monthly premium, HHS makes advance payments to insurance companies to cover those costs. Financial management is the process of stacking up those advance payments with the amount of tax subsidies actually owed to the insurance company to cover its consumers who are eligible for subsidies.

The second unbuilt system is monthly enrollment reconciliation. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, most consumers buying insurance on the individual market were only there for a short period of time, if they were unemployed or between jobs. Monthly enrollment reconciliation is the process of verifying the number of consumers covered by an insurance company each month and adjusting the government’s payments to the insurer accordingly. It also helps to verify that consumers who think they are enrolled in coverage actually are.

The third system to be built—the risk-adjustment program—regulates how HHS will issue payments to insurance companies when they spend significantly more on consumers’ health insurance than they accounted for when creating premiums. The risk-adjustment program will protect insurers from heavy losses if they take on too many sick individuals and face costs that exceed their revenue from premiums. It also serves as a consumer protection to keep the companies from hiking premiums in future years.

“The federal exchange does not need the three missing systems ready until 2014,” National Journal assures us.  Oh, really?  The part that “helps to verify that consumers who think they are enrolled in coverage actually are” can wait?

As for the risk assessment system, Reuters just reported that the Administration dumped a little proposal into the Federal Register that will pay off insurance companies by lowering the threshold for government risk payments to $45,000 from $60,000, ostensibly as part of the “plan” to reduce insurance cancellations announced by President Obama in his “Fumble” press conference… you know, the plan absolutely nobody in America actually took seriously, since it amounted to a vague promise that insurance providers could break the law for a year without fear of prosecution.  If the threshold has been lowered, even more taxpayer money will be pumped to insurance companies through those risk payments.  But the computer system that regulates this cash flow is a low-priority item that can wait until Whenever?

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