Right now a lot of Democrats are casting panicky glances at the calendar, wondering if health.gov or some alternative or hybrid enrollment process can be made to work in time for the January 1 main effective date of the Affordable Care Act or perhaps some near-term alternative. Today’s news from the administration isn’t good, per a Goldstein/Eilperin/Sun story at WaPo:

Software problems with the federal online health insurance marketplace, especially in handling high volumes, are proving so stubborn that the system is unlikely to work fully by the end of the month as the White House has promised, according to an official with knowledge of the project.

The insurance exchange is balking when more than 20,000 to 30,000 people attempt to use it at the same time — about half its intended capacity, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal information. And CGI Federal, the main contractor that built the site, has succeeded in repairing only about six of every 10 of the defects it has addressed so far.

Government workers and tech­nical contractors racing to repair the Web site have concluded, the official said, that the only way for large numbers of Americans to enroll in the health-care plans soon is by using other means so that the online system isn’t overburdened.

Looks like a very busy December for insurance agents, much as it was when Medicare Part D was rolled out a decade ago.

But Republicans have some rethinking of their own to do by January 1, as Salon‘s Brian Beutler has reminded them:

If it’s wrong under any circumstances to make changes in law that result in people losing their health insurance, as Republicans are suddenly positing, then the beginning of a new year has no special meaning. There’s no principled distinction between legally rescinding health insurance policies that commenced before Jan. 1 and rescinding health insurance policies that commence after Jan. 1. Unless they let go of their repeal obsession, Republicans will find themselves explicitly in favor of the latter, but not the former.

That won’t fly, particularly so long as the GOP is unable to coalesce around an alternative plan that matches or bests the ACA’s coverage expansion. Obamacare is driving policy cancelations right now, but it at least creates a coverage guarantee for those affected. Repeal without replace would impose a greater burden without providing any counterweight.

The biggest category of people who will receive a tangible benefit on January 1 that ACA repeal would take away is those with pre-existing conditions who have hitherto been denied individual insurance and forced to rely on state-run high-risk pools. offering barebones insurance at (usually) crazy-high rates. Once they obtain insurance, will Republicans express concern about forcing the cancellation of their policies?

I guess they could say they’ve never promised a fair or affordable health care system, so there’s no lying involved. But they’d best tamp down the rhetoric about the outrage of not letting people keep the insurance they have.

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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.