“Shut It Down and Bring It Back Up When It Works”

Ezra Klein has a rather startling post today that calls the Obamacare enrollment rollout a “disaster,” and suggests Republicans massively miscalculated by distracting attention from the mess and instead creating a much larger “disaster” of their own by shutting down the federal government and threatening a debt default.

Klein quotes health policy wonk Robert Laszlewski as indicating that the technological problems with the system go beyond the initial enrollment and encompass the transfer of data from enrollees to insurers, which means a second crisis is lurking in the wings. In a NBC interview, Laszlewski recommends that the administration “shut it down and bring it back up when it works.”

Is that feasible? I don’t know for sure, but as Ezra points out, the current issue ultimately won’t matter if the system is fixed reasonably soon (obviously before January 1), as was the case with Medicare Part D, which encountered very similar problems back in 2005.

It’s important for everyone to keep in mind that the problems we’ve been hearing about have little or nothing to do with the policy structure of Obamacare, and that Republicans who are conflating the enrollment problems with wildly distorted claims of an impending premium “spike” or an abandonment of employer-based policies or massive shifting of employees to part-time status are mixing apples with a whole basket of fruit. If the IT for enrollment is screwed up, yes, it makes sense to shut it down, fix it and then relaunch it, but the idea that the Affordable Care Act is inherently flawed remains a sheer assertion by its enemies, who have zero interest in helping make it work.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.