Another head-in-hands moment for President Barack Obama on Friday: Documents obtained by CBS reveal that Obamacare enrollment got off to an embarrassingly slow start when the exchanges opened Oct. 1. And by "slow," we mean Day One saw six people successfully sign up. CBS' leaked memos, penned during so-called "war room" meetings about the rollout, indicate that only a few hundred people were able to enroll in the first two days — a tiny number compared to that the "millions of visitors" figure trotted out by the administration. We'll say it again: six people. Six! Of 313,914,040!
It did get slightly better: the exchange opened Tuesday, and by Wednesday evening there were 248 enrollments nationwide. So today is another embarrassing day for the Department of Health and Human Services, who admitted to Fox News that the documents obtained by CBS "appear to be notes." "As the Secretary said before Congress, we are focused on providing reliable and accurate information and we do not have that at this time due to the issues with 834 forms," an HHS spokesperson said. "We have always anticipated that the pace of enrollment will increase throughout the enrollment period."
That's great. We hope so, too. But six people nationwide is very low! Embarrassingly low. There's-no-way-it-could-have-gone-worse low. Ted Cruz-doing-a-victory-dance low. Come on, guys, what were you thinking?
CBS did the math: to reach the seven million target enrollment number by March 1, almost 40,000 people will have to sign up for the website each day. Given the early figures, that seems almost impossibly high. And given the technical problems, that's a figure that almost definitely exceeds the number of call center operators there to assist you.
Analysts point out that, given all the problems with the website, only the most motivated customers would actually slog through the whole process — meaning those with the most need for health insurance, or only the sickest Americans. Unfortunately, the system was developed to require healthy Americans, particularly millennials and younger people in general, to buy in too. Otherwise, it won't stay afloat.
And Republican senators aren't shy about mulling over the consequences. "It looks to me like we are going to end up in what's called an insurance death spiral, because if the young healthy people don't pay more for their insurance, and you have older sicker people, it's going to go down, down," John Barrasso (R-WY.) told Fox News. "And then you are looking at, to me, a massive government bailout of this entire health care law."
Still, according to CBS sources, Obamacare does actually have precautions to keep such things from happening. It helps that it's not as though enrollment has to be done and dusted by the end of November; Americans have until the end of March to sign up for the new plans.
Over in the Congressional hearings, they're still debating who exactly is to blame for all this, but we have one theory...