The numbers are in, and they're just as low as predicted: The Obama administration announced Wednesday that just over 106,000 Americans signed up for healthcare through the new healthcare exchanges in their first month. Just under 400,000 additional Americans found out that they're eligible for medicare, but the numbers still fall far below target goals. The news comes amidst calls by Democrats to sidestep a signature Obamacare provision, requiring all insurance plans to conform to the same minimum standards. Now, even Democrats offering proposals that would allow Americans who are losing their insurance under Obamacare to be able to keep it.
To make things worse for President Barack Obama, only one fourth of the enrollments happened through the Healthcare.gov, the federally-run website that is being used by residents of 36 states to sign up for health insurance. That's not really surprising, considering that the website was slow to rise to the challenge. On the first day the healthcare exchanges launched, Healthcare.gov was plagued by so many problems that it was practically impossible to sign up. Eventually, it was revealed that the website for the federal heath insurance marketplace had failed an earlier test drive with just hundreds of users. This resulted in calls for accountability and congressional hearings on the matter, while the White House insisted that President Barack Obama was not aware of the website's failures until Oct. 1.
But, though signup numbers are low, officials estimate that over a million people have completed the application process, and have seen what plans are available to them. "Even with the issues we've had, the marketplace is working and people are enrolling," Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said. "As more people shop and talk things over with their families, we expect these numbers to rise."
And its not all bad news. More than 35,000 Californians used the state's website to select a health insurance plan. (If you're keeping count, that's a third of all health insurance plan purchasers, and more than all the people who used the federal website combined in 36 states.) The people behind Healthcare.gov say the website can now handle 17,000 new users an hour, in addition to having shorter response times.
Officials have also said a final deadline for the website to be fully operational: Nov. 30, two months after its launch date. "The team is working very hard," said Todd Park, Obama's chief technology officer.
Maybe a decade from now, we'll look back at Obamacare as the first major step in reforming our healthcare system. But, with each passing day, it becomes harder and harder to forgive the massive failure that was the Healthcare.gov launch.
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