Is Working?

Word is the panicked round-the-clock work on the Obamacare website has begun to pay off. Website uptime, not counting scheduled maintenance, is now about 90 percent. It’s far from the standard of actual internet companies, but it’s a dramatic improvement from the 43 percent at the beginning of November. Total signups this month came in at 100,000, about four times as many as October.

On the other hand, this report from the Times suggests that there are still some problems on the back end, the part connecting customers to insurance companies:

The issues are vexing and complex. Some insurers say they have been deluged with phone calls from people who believe they have signed up for a particular health plan, only to find that the company has no record of the enrollment. Others say information they received about new enrollees was inaccurate or incomplete, so they had to track down additional data — a laborious task that would not be feasible if data is missing for tens of thousands of consumers.

In still other cases, insurers said, they have not been told how much of a customer’s premium will be subsidized by the government, so they do not know how much to charge the policyholder.

This is indeed troubling. But the rapid progress made on the front end of the website suggests that these problems can be fixed in short order—and as the article says, the administration has been focused on the consumer side first. The worry I have is that now that some progress has been made and the political firestorm has died down somewhat, the administration might be tempted to sit back on its heels.

But I doubt that will happen either. The president got scalded badly enough with the initial website disaster that he and the rest of his team will likely be vigilant about carrying the project through to the end. And while the citizen and media complaints might now die down, insurance companies are by no means helpless when it comes to making their grievances known.

Ultimately, I think Ezra Klein (as credible a voice as exists on Obamacare) has the right attitude:

So there remain reason for concern. But here’s what’s indisputable: is improving, and fast. Or, to put it differently, will be fixed. In fact, for most people, it is probably fixed now, or will be fixed quite soon.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is national correspondent for the Week, and a former web editor for the Washington Monthly.