Healthcare.gov is going to be broken until the end of November, says Jeff Zients, a consultant brought in to fix the beleaguered federal health insurance e-commerce website. On a press conference call, Zients finally acknowledged wide-spread enrollment problems, estimating that only 3 in 10 users have been able to sign up and complete an application (or a measly 700,000 total).
“We’re confident by the end of November, HealthCare.gov will be smooth for a vast majority of users,” said Zients. That estimate should scare the Obama administration: the end of November is dangerously close to the Thanksgiving deadline some experts say is crucial to snagging young, healthy consumers.
“If it’s not running by Thanksgiving, that’s DEFCON 2,” warned MIT Economist Jonathan Gruber, who worked on both President Obama’s and Gov. Mitt Romney’s health care laws. “It’s a real problem because people want to get insurance by January, but it’s not a crisis.”
Health and Human Services has dispatched an army of field salesman and celebrities to convince young “invincibles” to sign up for health insurance, which is needed to subsidize the costs of their elders.
In Massachusetts, which has a similar individual mandate, enrollment numbers increased exponentially towards the end of the deadline.
But, Massachusetts had twice as long and didn’t have a funky enrollment deadline, where users had to sign up 3 months after the website launched to pick up insurance when the new plan started (for the Affordable Care Act, consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 to get insurance by Jan. 1).
Zients says a government contractor that worked on the malfunctioning backend, QSSI, will be taking over the Center for Medicare and Medicaid as the lead developer. However, continuing the White House’s trend of bizarre and abject secrecy, he would not reveal who is part of the “tech surge” to fix the website.