Out on a Limb

Daily Best of the Web   —   Posted on November 13, 2013

The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.

Out on a Limb
“Health Care Law Could Be Liability for Democrats”–headline, Associated Press, Nov. 12

Enrollment Numbers
The first ObamaCare enrollment numbers were coming out, and the guys at TalkingPointsMemo.com were expecting bad news–“bad” in this case meaning very small numbers, as TPM is pro-ObamaCare. So early this morning the site’s Dylan Scott published “Your Guide to Understanding the Obamacare Enrollment Numbers.”

“The administration was expecting 500,000 enrollments in October,” Scott notes. “For context . . . that was the baseline before the rollout went awry.”

What was the baseline after? “Obamacare supporters say that freak-out threshold doesn’t exist,” Scott helpfully explains. He quotes one expert who pretty much says it all: ” ‘I think there’s no number that’s too low,’ Tim Jost, a Washington and Lee law professor and supporter of the law, told TPM. ‘The main thing that we’re going to learn is that the website isn’t working.’ “

Oh, so that’s all. Whew!

As low as supporters were setting expectations, though, the administration still felt obliged to inflate the numbers. The Wall Street Journal reports that “fewer than 50,000 people had successfully navigated the troubled federal health-care website and enrolled in private insurance plans as of last week.”

How many fewer is anybody’s guess, because, as the Washington Post’s Sarah Kliff reported yesterday, the Obama administration isn’t limiting its count of enrollees to people who have actually enrolled in a health-insurance plan. Instead, “it will use a more expansive definition.” Get ready for it: “It will count people who have purchased a plan as well as those who have a plan sitting in their online shopping cart but have not yet paid.”

What if Amazon.com counted its revenues that way in reports to investors? One suspects the Securities and Exchange Commission would not approve.

Oh well, at least the state exchanges are doing fine, right? Well, no. Reuters reports that “has reached only about 3 percent of its enrollment target for 2014 in 12 U.S. states” whose exchanges “are mostly working smoothly.” Avalere Health, the consulting firm that conducted the study, blamed George W. Bu–we mean Barack Obama: “With enrollment in the federal HealthCare.gov website serving 36 states stalled by technical failures, the weak sign-ups for functioning insurance exchanges could be due to the administration’s difficulty to promote the program as a success, Avalere said.”

Again, that’s in states where the websites are supposedly functional. So maybe we’ve learned something more than that the website isn’t working.

And even states with functional websites have serious problems. The Hill, citing the Avalere study, reports that “about 8,000 Washington state residents were told they qualified for more generous tax subsidies than they would actually receive when they enrolled for ObamaCare via their state’s online marketplace.” This “technical glitch”–that word apparently hasn’t quite been banished from the language yet–“led many enrollees in the Washington exchange to select generous insurance plans they likely wouldn’t be able to afford once their subsidies are reduced.”

Most astonishing, the 8,000 botched Evergreen State applications–which require complete do-overs by the applicants–represent more than 15% of the total enrollment Avalere found in the 12 state exchanges it studied.

The Avalere study excludes California, “which has only released the number of started applications.” The press release doesn’t say if it includes Oregon, but that actually doesn’t affect the result one way or another. The Beaver State’s website is completely nonfunctional, so that its total enrollment is zero, zip, zilch, nada, nil, naught–in other words, a big goose egg.

The Associated Press has one of the all-time great look-on-the-sunny-side quotes, from Amy Fauver, chief communications officer for Cover Oregon: “We stuck to the vision, and we’re experiencing now the bumps that go along with having a grand vision that doesn’t work out exactly the way you hope it will.”

If she were good at math, she might have added that Cover Oregon’s enrollment has been growing exponentially.

Another state excluded from the Avalere study is Massachusetts. You might think that’s because Massachusettsans are old pros at running a health-insurance exchange, having set one up way back in 2006 after Mitt Romney’s reform. But no. As the Boston Herald reports, the old, functional Commonwealth Connector had to be scrapped and replaced with an ObamaCare-compliant exchange.

The new Massachusetts Health Connector is beset with “embarrassing glitches,” the Herald reports, and little wonder, since the state hired CGI Group, the same Canadian firm that designed the beglitched federal exchange. Result: “Only 549 applicants–out of the 150,000 Bay Staters forced to switch their health plans to comply with Obamacare rules–are poised to receive insurance.”

“Poised” turns out to be the local dialect for what the Obama administration calls “enrolled”; in Massachusetts, at least, the latter word retains its earlier meaning. “No, nobody’s enrolled,” Scott Devonshire, the exchange’s chief information officer, told the Herald, “because enrollment . . . doesn’t happen until a [health plan] carrier receives payment. It’s a semantics issue, I guess.”

Which seems like a perfect segue to Bill Clinton. The Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper notes that the 42nd president said in a recent interview that Obama ought to keep his most infamous promise: “I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.” As we noted Friday, it’s highly unlikely that is even possible. But maybe they can compromise and put your old plan in a shopping cart.

For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.