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October 22, 2013

Wonkblog: Obama is Spinning and Has 4 Weeks to Fix This [Errol F]

If you saw the President's speech yesterday you know that he spent 5-10 minutes sugar coating Obamacare before a brief admission that the website isn't working as hoped. He then gave out an 800 number as an alternative. Philip Klein called the number and was, after navigating the phone tree, directed to healthcare.gov. So that's helpful.

The situation is so bad that even Ezra Klein is admitting the administration is spinning just how serious this is:

The president emphasized that the Affordable Care Act "is not just a Web site." It's a Medicaid expansion, and it's got consumer protections, and delivery-system reforms, and all of those are ongoing.

The problem is that much of the law is a Web site. When the White House defined what it would mean for the Affordable Care Act to be a success, that definition ran right through the Web site.

Klein's take is that the spin no longer means anything. Either the site will be fixed or it won't.

Of course that's always true. In some ultimate sense, spin never matters. Things either happen or do not happen. And yet, someone at the White House thinks this more-than-a-website meme is helping. So maybe it's worth pointing out equally loudly that even Obamacare supporters like Ezra Klein think this is naked political lie.

The more important question is this: How long does the administration have for the new "tech surge" to fix the problem? Klein's fellow blogger Sarah Kliff wrote about that:

There's a point where not having a functional Web portal actually does interfere with consumers' ability to gain coverage through the marketplace.

I've spent most of Monday talking to experts about when, exactly, that happens and, perhaps more importantly, why it matters. Most of them point to sometime around mid-November, or even Thanksgiving, as the crucial moment where the health insurance marketplace needs to be working.

So the bottom line on Obama's speech from the sympathetic ears at Wonkblog is that Obama is not being truthful about the seriousness of the problem. Also, he has, at best, about four weeks in which to fix it.

You don't have to be a right-wing extremist to look at the basic facts and conclude the administration is in serious trouble. If the New York Times is correct about a real fix requiring a rewrite of 5 million lines of code, then a Thanksgiving fix sounds pretty optimistic.

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posted by Guest Blogger at 10:28 AM

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