Health Care

"Obamacare Enrollees Become Urban Legend"


That's the headline of this Miami Herald story that ran yesterday. Here's the opening:

Nearly two weeks after the federal government launched the online Health Insurance Marketplace at, individuals who have successfully used the choked-up website to enroll for a subsidized health insurance plan have reached a status akin to urban legend: Everyone has heard of them, but very few people have actually met one.

The Miami Herald searched high and low for individuals who completed enrollment for a subsidized health plan through the marketplace, also called an exchange, launched by the federal government on Oct. 1 in 36 states, including Florida.

The Herald solicited readers for stories of enrollees online and in the newspaper, and received a fair number of responses reflecting various degrees of success with, which has been plagued by technical problems that federal officials attribute to an overwhelming number of people trying to access the website at once…

Read the whole thing here.

At least one of those urban legends—Chad Henderson, who claimed to have signed up on the federal exchange site in Georgia—was debunked last week due to Peter Suderman's exclusive reporting here last week. After having claimed to have signed himself and his father up, Henderson, an Organizing for America activist, admitted that neither was enrolled.

The opening-fortnight flop of Obamacare doesn't mean the program and its website won't become more smooth-running over time, but the fiasco should rightly give pause to defenders of The Affordable Care Act. According to HHS, got about 15 million unique visitors in its first 10 days. That's hardly overwhelming traffic, especially for a site that was three years in the making (though it's in keeping with the program's long history of muffed deadlines). As the site becomes more accessible, expect other issues to start cropping up that deal more directly with things such as the confidentiality and accuracy of the information people share there, the ability of insurers to deliver as promised, accounts of subsidies being granted to wealthy and withheld from poor participants, and more.

Lord knows there are few times when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is a font of wisdom, but this might be one of them. Appearing on This Week yesterday, he said that while the GOP clearly flubbed the government shutdown, Obamacare is "going to be a political gift that keeps on giving….the shutdown will be old news next year, Obamacare's faults will be front and center in 2014."

There are few reasons to get happy at the prospect of the Republican Party gaining seats in Congress, but the repeal or dramatic overhaul of Obamacare is one of them.

And let's put one adminstration-sponsored talking point to sleep: A disastrous rollout of a transformative entitlement program doesn't have anything in common with new releases from Apple.

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  1. “he said that while the GOP clearly flubbed the government shutdown”

    Man, looks like all of them are going to be banging this drum today.

    1. Considering how many low-information voters now believe that the Obamacare website problems are because of the shutdown, yeah, it’s a problem.

      Shamelessly untrue, but if you didn’t expect the Obama Administration to mislead people, that’s your fault.

      1. Low information voters” You mean the Republicans who didn’t vote for it in the first place? They are the highest registrants. I don’t know anyone that thinks its because of the shutdown, nor have I seen any administration officials say so. It’s largely because of the OVERWHELMING demand (which was never anticipated) that crashed the servers. more custmers is called a success..not a fail. Uninformed voters.. ie, whether Republican or Dems also blame Obama when its the fault of the States not having their exchanges set up.

  2. (though it’s in keeping with the program’s long history of muffed deadlines

    They’ll be cool if I forget to file my taxes on time, right?

  3. “I am legend!”

    *kills own dog*

    What a bleak future. THANKS, OBAMACARE

  4. The opening-fortnight flop of Obamacare doesn’t mean the program and its website won’t become more smooth-running over time

    “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”

    I predict much of the existing software will be scrapped.

  5. Oh, and how can you NOT alt-text that Graham pic?!

    1. alt-text is being obstructed by the Rethuglican congress.

      1. All the alt-text writers have been furloughed?

        1. There’s no such thing as a “non-essential” alt text technician!

      2. Now that is just bad strategy.

  6. So we have one self-reported case of someone actually buying insurance in FL in the two weeks the exchanges have been ‘functioning’?
    ‘Hey, doc, I think I need some emergency treatment here, when can you get to it? Uh, WHEN?!’
    Where’s shreek to claim this is a “victory”!

  7. Another chilling tale to tell around the campfire.

    “And when he hit the submit button, he was AUTOMATICALLY ENROLLED IN GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE. FOR EVER!!!! Bwahahahahahahaha!”

    “Grandpa, stop telling those horrible stories!”

    “Relax kids, in reality all he got was an error message.”

    1. Someone I know enrolled on the site and decided it was too much money. Except now that he’s in their system, he’s getting threatening messages sent to him demanding that he buy insurance by a certain date, he’ll get a “tax” levied against him. By trying and failing to enroll, he put himself on the top of the list of people they’re going to compel.

  8. What, by the way, does the alternate world look like? Would Mr. Suderman file a story a day about false claims if only the government shutdown weren’t sucking all the air out of the room? Would the Tampa Bay Times have also run a skeptical Obamacare story? I mean, Wolf Blitzer panned it last week, plus these. What sort of coverage would move the dial in the direction Gillespie and the editorial board at reason want? I’m not on the Cosmotarian hate-wagon, but I sure don’t understand why if reason and the Miami Herald and CNN can all run feature stories on the failure of Obamacare, the government shutdown is standing in the way of letting Obamacare fail.

    1. because there is a presumption among those who never venture outside the Beltway that we rubes are incapable of noticing more than one story at a time. It’s impossible to notice the cluster of O-care AND the shutdown, too.

      1. Pretty much everyone at work and everyone in my immediate circle is well aware of the clusterfuck.

      2. It’s Obamacare!


        It’s the shutdown!


        It’s Obamacare!


        It’s the shutdown!


        It’s Obamacare and the shutdown!

    2. Exactly. Without the government shutdown, you’d hear about the same amount of coverage on the exchanges’ failures as you do now.

      “The Obamacare website hit a bit of a rocky start tonight, as thousands of people tried and failed to log in.” A few days later, “Still some growing pains with the Obamacare site for exchanges.” That’s about all the story there is right now.

      Hell, it’s possible that the govt shutdown complements this story: people are talking about the politics of the failures in relation to the shutdown, in addition to the failures themselves.

      1. Corrected:
        ‘The Obamacare website hit a bit of a rocky start tonight, as a few people tried and failed to log in. Rethuglicans to blame.’

  9. Separately, kudos to the squirrels/interns/web-team at reason who finally got rid of that script that was blocking H&R’s front page from loading in IE.

  10. They were supposed to get healthy (especially young) people to buy health insurance, and this was going to make up for all the money the insurance companies are going to lose by covering preexisting conditions, etc.

    The extreme long term on Wall Street is two quarters. Your stock will take a huge hit if quarterly numbers suggest that an insufficient number of healthy young people are signing up to make up for all those people with preexisting condition.

    Obama may find this hard to imagine, but earnings reports aren’t tied to the political cycle and neither are insurance company stock prices.

    January 1, 2014, if I understand it, is the date both that the preexisting condition exclusions end and the date that you have to start paying the penaltax for not being insured…

    This means that if not enough healthy people sign up for insurance, the solution will not be to delay the individual mandate like everybody thinks. The solution will be to delay getting rid of the preexisting conditions exclusion. That’s probably the last thing Obama wants to do, but he may have no other choice in this slow-motion train wreck.

    1. That will square nicely with those of us with pre-existing conditions being forced to buy health insurance anyway wont it?

    2. You don’t actually have the PAY the penaltax until you file your taxes for FY 2014 , though. Which means April 2015.

      1. Thank you for this.

        That’s even worse.

        They’re making the insurance companies cover preexisting conditions for a whole year BEFORE the individual mandate really takes effect?


  11. Where did these expecations of instance enrollment come from? Anyone who has previously bought medical insurance outside of their employer has certainly spent a a couple weeks finding quotes and comparing plans. Also, with a deadline of 12/15 to get stuff in for Jan 1 coverage there is nothing compelling people to get it all over with in the first two weeks.

    1. Well, either the idea that the exchanges were overwhelmed with attempted enrollees is a lie or nobody is trying to enroll so Obamacare wasn’t the emergency the administration made it out to be.

      1. Obviously, the exchanges drew a lot of traffic from people who were merely curious to see what the prices were like.
        Including many people who were only politically interested, who aren’t actually shopping for insurance.

        My guess is gazillions of partisans on both sides are logging in either to prove or disprove the claims about prices and ease of use.

    2. “Anyone who has previously bought medical insurance outside of their employer has certainly spent a a couple weeks finding quotes and comparing plans.”

      But Sibelius said you couldn’t do that before Obamacare. One of you is lying!

    3. The exchanges were supposed to eliminate the couple weeks of work by giving you the quotes and plan comparisons right in one easy place.

  12. Just wait to watch what happens when people file 1040s in the first quarter of 2015, and you’ll see another way ObamaCare is different from Apple.

    People with incomes around 400% of poverty line ($62040 for married couple no kids) are certainly going to underestimate to get their ObamaCare tax credits. These depend on age and for a married couple can be as much as $7500 if they’re over 50. But, if that tax filer earns $1 over the 400% pl hurdle, he loses the entire credit. There are going to be some mighty surprised people in early 2015.

    There’s no way Apple could sell a product that contained a timebomb like that. Not even Microsoft could get away with that.

  13. One thing about the website clusterfuck – it provides a good argument against single payer. If the government can’t even get a fucking website marginally more complicated than done in 3 years for $600MM, you would have to be insane to believe they could do a competent job at managing a health care system.

    1. Of course, this would only apply to those who follow rational arguments. The faithful will continue to believe.

      1. Most of us on this board have been shouting this into the night for years. Some have continued to argue that it is immoral on principle.

        1. Yeah, I think it’s important to argue both on morality and practicality. Some people may be open to one argument more than the other, and sometimes it’s a crack in the door.

          One of my big turning points to libertarianism was finally realizing – near the end of college – that liberal social programs weren’t helping anyone out of poverty.

          1. Why would progressive nanny state peddlers kill their golden goose?

    2. All you need to do is visit your local DMV or other government entity that is manned by power hungry bureaucrats, and you would have known that no amount of money was going to make this system anything but costly, shitty, and as painful an experience as possible.

  14. The Miami Herald searched high and low for individuals who completed enrollment for a subsidized health plan through the marketplace, also called an exchange

  15. Such an awesome topic, thank you so much for sharing such great things ..

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