For the past week, the Republican party and the national media have gone around foaming at the mouths about some troubles people are experiencing with the Healthcare.gov website. What an outrage! - Because, you know, buying health insurance in the individual market used to be just so simple until Obamacare came in and messed things up. Also, because it's not like there's a toll-free number with quick answer time (1-800-318-2596) isn't available to consumers who are having trouble on the website or would rather pick up the phone, or human navigators who could help.
But America's uninsured aren't buying the media's poutrage. They are signing up in droves. Already, federal and state exchanges have completed 700,000 applications (and this is yesterday's number) - and given that an application may cover a whole family, the number of individuals covered by those applications are likely well over a million. That's 24 days into a 180-day open enrollment period.
Why is this important? The goal for the Administration is to sign up roughly 7 million people in the exchanges through March 31. If the sign-up process were entirely linear, i.e. we assume that we sign up an equal number of people each day, we'd need 930,000 people by the 24th day, just shy of a million. Even by that measure, sign-ups are ahead of schedule.
Of course, the sign up curve for anything isn't linear - it spikes as the deadline approaches. The closer we get to the start of coverage on January 1 and the open enrollment on March 31, enrollments will spike. There are a lot of people who are comparing plans, looking at their options, and discussing with their families their best options. When these people all complete their applications, it will accelerate the sign-ups.
In other words, the current status of completed applications isn't just ahead of schedule, they are well ahead of schedule.
"Yeah, but you need young and healthy people to sign up and not just the sick," you will hear a lot of TV pundits - mostly old men - retort. This view of "failure" of Obamacare's rollout rests on an interesting theory: that young people - the Internet generation - will not pick up a phone to seek out a navigator, and instead just won't sign up if the website is down. The problem with that argument is that young people - who are more likely to do everything online are also vastly more familiar with bugs and glitches and difficulties on websites as part of our daily lives. The very familiarity and dependence on the web that these TV pundits attribute to the young also makes the young more capable of calling bullshit on media freakouts on website glitches. We are also more familiar with the concept of "peak" and "off-peak" web traffic times, and know to come back at an off-peak hour if something isn't working during peak hours.
The pundits, of course, have no idea whether the young and healthy are enrolling or not - but they are convinced - absolutely convinced - that they're not because a complex website happened to break down at certain times. By the way, remind us again the age group that went most strongly for President Obama in the last two elections? Now tell us whether that age group is more likely to listen to the media or the president they voted for and adore. Of course, another big problem for the pundits is that the age group they are talking about pays scant attention to them.
In the end, the entire right-wing and media poutrage is based on two dumb theories that are falling apart: first, a "botched" rollout leaps and bounds ahead of its application goals less than four weeks into the game, and second, Generations X and Y who are so familiar with the Internet that they have no idea that websites and web applications (just as any other piece of technology) sometimes have problems.
The truth is that at the end of the day, as the president said, the product - health insurance - is good and affordable. People who have waited for affordable insurance to try to make sure that they don't lose everything they have because of an accident or a disease aren't going to be deterred by media pundits and scary witch-hunts from Congress. America's uninsured aren't about to allow the GOP and their main stream media allies tell them that they can't buy health insurance. They can, and they are. In huge numbers.