Industry Source Tells NRO: WH May Have To Consider “Unthinkable Options” If Website Meltdown Continues Into November




” Today’s must-read comes from Yuval Levin, who spoke to five managers at the HHS department that’s running and three health-insurance industry managers. Their reactions to two weeks of total chaos on the site: “Restrained panic” from the former and more or less pants-wetting panic from the latter. I don’t think this qualifies as the news story we’re all waiting for because Levin has no sources up the chain in the decision-making parts of the executive branch, but if people in the industry are whispering about “unthinkable options” now, rest assured that people in the White House are too.

I can’t excerpt all the parts that are noteworthy, although if you’ve been following news about the apocalypse you already know some of what Levin reports — the login fiasco is a result of HHS demanding that people create an account before seeing what plans cost, the system still can’t calculate subsidies correctly (which means some people are getting the wrong price when they buy coverage), the “back end” communications between the federal data hub and private insurers are a shambles, and the chaos will only increase if HHS solves the login problems without solving the back end problems. (Imagine insurers having to sift through 5,000 garbled enrollments per day instead of 50.) What about the timeline, though? Per Levin’s sources, D-Day will come sometime in mid-November.

If the problems now plaguing the system are not resolved by mid-November and the flow of enrollments at that point looks like it does now, the prospects for the first year of the exchanges will be in very grave jeopardy. Some large advertising and outreach campaigns are also geared to that crucial six-week period around Thanksgiving and Christmas, so if the sites are not functional, all of that might not happen—or else might be wasted. If that’s what the late fall looks like, the administration might need to consider what one of the people I spoke with described as“unthinkable options” regarding the first year of the exchanges…

Sick people with preexisting conditions whose coverage will be very expensive for insurers will spend all day on the site trying to sign up. Young, healthy people, whose money insurers desperately need to help pay for that very expensive coverage for sick people, might try once or twice and then give up. Result: A giant bill for insurance companies with no way to pay it except by jacking up premiums on everyone who currently has insurance, and even that might not be enough. That’s the death spiral, and that’s why “unthinkable” options are suddenly, but inevitably, on the table.”