Spin no more successful than site
“Even with the issues we've had, the marketplace is working and people are enrolling,” announced Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last Wednesday, referring to the botched launching of the federal government's Healthcare.gov website and the official announcement that only 26,794 people had signed up for health insurance in October using that troubled ObamaCare site.
“It is very much up and running,” declared Sebelius, referring to the still-malfunctioning federal website.
We're lucky she's not a pilot. I can imagine Capt. Sebelius' announcement to a plane full of panicking passengers as she's crashing a trans-Atlantic flight into the ocean: “Hold on, folks. We're just stopping for some really fresh fish while I bang the @#$%& glitches out of these @#$%& instruments!”
Altogether, 106,185 people selected health insurance last month using the federal and state websites — 79,391 using the 15 state-run sites and 26,794 using the federal site that covers the balance of the states.
October's total enrollment figure of 106,185 was only slightly more than one-fifth of the 500,000 enrollees the Obama administration predicted would sign up during the first month, and only 1.5 percent of the enrollees the administration predicts will be signed up by March 31.
Perhaps significantly, the 106,185 enrollee number “includes those who have selected a plan who either have or have not paid their first month's premium,” reported the Department of Health and Human Services.
Secretary Sebelius told reporters on a conference call that HHS would be able to tell them by Dec. 15 how many people had paid for their October coverage.
The whole operation is tricky, Sebelius told reporters — the correct enrollee numbers, the no-pays, the hackers, the glitches. “Insurance,” she said, “is very different from buying a toaster.”
No reporter responded by pointing out that we'd never be able to get a piece of bread toasted golden brown on both sides if the federal government made toasters.
HHS tried to spin October's sorry enrollee numbers as a success, proclaiming, “The first month enrollment experience in the Marketplace exceeds comparable first month enrollment in the Commonwealth Care program in the Massachusetts Health Connector.”
HHS didn't mention that the population of Massachusetts is just 2 percent of the population of the United States — 6,646,194 for Massachusetts in the U.S. Census Bureau's 2013 report, versus 317,062,164 on the U.S. Population Clock as I'm typing this sentence.
In any case, more than 47 million U.S. adults now go without health insurance. Enrolling people at October's rate of 106,185 per month, and assuming that those who aren't fully subsidized will get around to paying their premiums, it will take just short of a half-century to get everyone insured.
Except it's worse than that, because an estimated 5 million people lost their health insurance while the government bureaucracies were signing up 106,185 customers, and more piles of insurance cancellations are in the mail.
All this while they're just trying to get people to shop and buy — the easy part, like going online to buy a car. The real explosion of incompetency is going to occur when they start tearing the product apart.
Ralph R. Reiland is an associate professor of economics at Robert Morris University and a local restaurateur (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Winning home games crucial for Penguins
- Icy roads, bridges trigger minor accidents in Western Pennsylvania
- Heart stent implanted, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg goes home
- Police identify driver in North Side crash that killed pregnant woman
- Penguins GM prepares for emotional series against Carolina
- Nonprofit plans to keep Blairsville WyoTech campus open as part of $24 million purchase
- Pryor’s 22 points lead Robert Morris past Louisiana-Monroe
- Pipeline project could bring thousands of construction jobs to Burrell Township
- Steelers notebook: Roethlisberger says Saints game is ‘must win’
- Lack of money may crush ISIS
- Four of five Blairsville-Saltsburg schools improve state performance scores