Obamacare: A brutally bad rollout

The online exchanges have been plagued with serious “bugs and glitches.”

President Obama’s health-care law has encountered one obstacle he can’t blame on Republicans, said Andrew Johnson in NationalReview.com: its disastrous online launch. The White House assured Americans they could buy individual health-care plans on state and federal online exchanges beginning Oct. 1, but in the week they’ve been opened for business, the federal and state-run sites have been plagued with serious “bugs and glitches.” People were met with repeated error messages, endless wait times, and frozen websites when they asked for information or tried to sign up. At least 99 out of 100 visitors, in fact, could not enroll even if they wanted to. The Obama administration at first blamed “overwhelming pent-up demand” for the embarrassing rollout, said Megan McArdle in Bloomberg.com, but later conceded that the software’s architecture and coding were seriously flawed and needed fixing. This comes as no real surprise, given the program’s “unrealistically aggressive” launch timetable.

I’m sorry to disappoint conservatives desperate for the law to fail, said Paul Krugman in The New York Times, but “this thing is going to work.” Technical issues were inevitable on a program of this scale, involving millions of people. The high volume of traffic proves that eligible Americans really want to sign up. The Obama administration also has plenty of time to iron out these “teething problems,” as enrollment for 2014 doesn’t close until March 31. When Medicare’s Part D prescription program launched in 2006, glitchy new computer systems and complex instructions left seniors fuming for months, said Matthew Yglesias in Slate.com. But today, 90 percent of seniors who are enrolled in Part D are happy with it. It’ll be the same with Obamacare. “Seven years from now, nobody’s going to care about all this stuff.”

But the glitches do matter for the law’s reputation today, said the Phoenix Arizona Republic in an editorial. The public is still largely unconvinced about the merits of the Affordable Care Act, and the government’s inability to make even the websites work won’t inspire confidence. If the currently uninsured decide signing up isn’t worth the hassle, “the program could be in trouble before it really gets started.” In this volatile climate, said Ezra Klein in WashingtonPost.com, the Obama administration can’t afford to hand opponents of the ACA “ammunition for their case.” To avoid a political disaster, the administration better “get the marketplace working, and fast.”

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