Take Obamacare website down for repairs


We were hardly surprised when Rep. Mike Rogers, the Michigan Republican, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that healthcare.gov, the online federal “marketplace” for health insurance, should go offline until it is fully operational.

But we were taken aback when Dianne Feinstein, California’s senior U.S. senator, agreed. “It’s pretty clear,” said the respected Democratic lawmaker, “to those of us who have been watching this rollout, that the technology base was not sufficient, and that the website didn’t function.”

Indeed, she told CBS’ Bob Schieffer, in a recent conversation with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, she urged the Obama administration “to take down the website until it was right.” However, Sen. Feinstein added, “They believe they need to keep it running” as they “sort out of difficulties.”

We see the same recalcitrance by the administration in its unwillingness to extend the Obamacare enrollment period beyond a mere matter of weeks (rather than months), despite the fact that many, if not most, of those that have tried to obtain insurance on healthcare.gov since it rolled out Oct. 1 have had difficulty doing so.

With a Jan. 1 deadline looming to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, after which the uninsured faced penalties, Kathleen Sebelius’ Department of Health and Human Services recently announced that consumers would have until March 31 to sign up for coverage.

But, as NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner reported last month, because of the way the system works, consumers have to sign up by the middle of the previous month for coverage to take effect in time.

“So right now, to be covered by the end of March,” Ms. Rovner explained, “you have to be enrolled by Feb. 15. That means the Obama administration has to make good on its guarantee that, by the end of November, healthcare.gov “will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.”

We’d like to believe the Obama administration. But, frankly, the prospect that, by the end of November, the myriad glitches that have plagued healthcare.gov since its Oct. 1 debut — when only six individuals in the entire United States managed to enroll on opening day — does not appear especially promising.

Yes, we understand the administration has enlisted the aid of such able companies as Google and Oracle in a so-called “tech surge” to get healthcare.gov functioning as it should. But more than a few tech experts have warned that the vaunted tech surge actually could make things worse rather than better.

It seems to us that the best way for the Obama administration to avoid what would be the mother of nightmares is to take healthcare.gov offline, as Sen. Feinstein urged, while extending until at least June 1 the deadline for complying with the individual mandate.

That would give the techies working on the glitch-ridden website — which went down yet again this past weekend — a reasonable chance of successfully rolling out healthcare.gov.2, a new, much-improved version of the online insurance exchange that even staunch supporters of Obamacare now consider a big fail.

— From the Orange County Register

 

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