March 31st, 2014
09:19 AM ET
4 months ago

Inside Politics: D-Day for Obamacare

It’s Monday, March 31. Obamacare D-Day.

If you have procrastinated over the past six months and haven’t tried to log on to get insurance before today, you might encounter some hiccups.

The healthcare.gov website had been functioning smoothly of late, but Monday morning, some users encountered a message that read, “The system isn’t available at the moment. We're currently performing maintenance. Please try again later.”

There’s not too much “later” left. CNN's Jim Acosta  reported Monday the site was unavailable in the early morning hours when a scheduled maintenance ran too long. It appeared by 8:30 that the site was again functioning, but record traffic slowed the site down and a queuing system was in place so that some visitors had to wait to proceed to their state’s enrollment section.

The waits continued throughout the morning and in the afternoon HHS released a statement explaining the site was having trouble keeping up with last-minute traffic and people trying to log on for the first time.

"We are experiencing record volume on HealthCare.gov today," said spokeswoman Joanne Peters in a statement. " 1.2 million visits through noon and 125k plus concurrent users at peak so far today.  The waiting room is up to meet demand. Consumers may wait, or may leave their email and they will be invited back."

If you don’t have health insurance by today - and you haven’t started the process to get it - there’s a good chance you’ll have to pay a fine during tax time next year.

Website issues on Obamacare deadline day

Consumers who attempt to sign up on the final day of enrollment but experience technical problems will be given a few additional days to complete the process, and administration official told CNN's Acosta.

Beyond the last day hiccups, there are two issues to chart on Obamacare: the policy and the politics. And they seem to run at crosscurrents.

Obamacare Policy

From a policy standpoint, millions of people have signed up, which would seem to make the program viable in the short term. But the success of the law will be charted in the coming years as insurance companies reconfigure premiums and respond to the ratio of healthy to sick enrollees in their broad new insurance pools. Only then will we know if this grand experiment will do anything to control the cost of health care and come closer to achieving universal coverage.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency in charge of implementing the law, announced Sunday that weekend traffic to the federal healthcare.gov site had spiked with more than 2 million visits. A call center had received more than 2.5 million calls over the past week.

More than 6 million enrollments reported by the administration last week won’t be enough for the people who oppose the law on principle. One Republican senator, John Barrasso of Wyoming, himself a doctor, said he doesn’t believe the 6 million figure anyway.

"I don't think it means anything. … I think they're cooking the books on this," he said on "Fox News Sunday.”

Cooking the books is quite an allegation, and there’s no evidence to suggest that exactly. But it is true the administration hasn’t given out all of the Obamacare enrollment data it surely must have.

The other policy element to watch is how Obamacare works in different states. Enrollment has been much higher - predominantly in blue states - where governors and legislatures set up their own exchanges. It could end up being a bigger policy success in these places than in places - many of them red states - where governors continue to fight the law and the exchanges are run by the federal government.'

Why 6 million enrollments tells us very little about the health of Obamacare

CNN Money: Three measures of Obamacare's success

Obamacare Politics

From a political standpoint, Democrats have already paid a huge political price for this law, and if forecasts are true for a good year for Republicans in the coming midterm elections, Democrats will continue to pay. That’s because 6 million or 7 million enrollments won’t do much to change the way most people feel about the law.

Support (or opposition) to the law seems to have gelled. Between 35% and 40% or so of Americans like the law. A little more than half of Americans don’t like it. But the people who don’t like it include the 10% or so who don’t think it goes far enough. These numbers have played out, with slight differences, in most of the recent polls on the issue.

Here is CNN’s poll from earlier this month.

And there is one other key point in the polling data. Even though half of Americans oppose the law, less than a third - 29% in the most recent Kaiser Health Tracking Poll - want it repealed.

But the conservatives who don’t like the law don’t like it a lot more than liberals support it.

Bill Clinton gave his advice to Democrats in an interview with Real Clear Politics over the weekend. His party has been too timid in dealing with the health law and its unpopularity, he said. They shouldn’t run away from their signature achievement.

"I thought that Democrats had a tendency to shy away from things they had done that were unpopular, (and) talk about positions they had that were popular. And that my own experience had convinced me - going back to '94 and even more when I was governor - that that was always a terrible mistake. That you had to turn in toward all controversies and embrace them - even if you said you were wrong or a mistake was made. You couldn't not deal with it."

How will Democrats deal with Obamacare? In the Senate, moderate Democrats have said they’ll introduce a series of “fixes” to the health care law. But Republicans have been more intent on larger-scale changes and might not be willing to work to improve a law they entirely oppose.

Read More: Democrats unveil agenda aimed at keeping the Senate


Filed under: Inside Politics • Obamacare
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Tampa Tim

    Like the birth certificate, republicans will never accept that almost 7 million have signed up for ACA, 5 million added to Medicaid, 3.5 million students on their parents plan, an seniors have saved billions of dollars on prescriptions. They want names, but that will never satisfy them. It is time to move forward without the GOP.

    March 31, 2014 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  2. Rudy NYC

    I'm not surprised that they're experiencing web site problems. I'd predicted it last year that they had better get prepared for the last minute crush of enrollees. The numbers of concurrent users that they were tossing around seemed to me to be too small by a factor of at least ten. Hate to say it, but I expect the whole thing to crash and stay crashed before the day is out.

    March 31, 2014 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  3. Bessy

    If people can't get it today they deserve what they get for putting it off to the last minute. Not sure why people do this, but............

    March 31, 2014 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  4. Harold Read

    There is no "D-Day" for Obamacare.

    The Obama Administration can and has moved the deadlines at their convenience.

    Health insurance providers have to spend money to adjust to their policies and procedures to accout for the shifting deadlines. As a result, they put the costs to cover the changes on the consumer with higher rates.

    March 31, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  5. Gurgyl

    This Web site issues are very normal–they get fixed. I get these viruses at times, but fixable. I still don't understand GOP rant is where we're these idiots when millions are denied by insurances, Medicare fraud, hospital looting patients, pharmacy drugs cost outrageous etc? ACA IS A LAW. Will stay there. It like Medicare, SS etc.

    March 31, 2014 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  6. Tampa Tim

    People are beginning to realize that the enrollment period ends for this year, and will have to wait for next year's enrollment to begin in November. (Medicaid, Medicare do not have the same deadline)

    March 31, 2014 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  7. Tampa Tim

    Harry Read – Insurance companies have been increasing our premiums for decades. The rate is now around 3%, which is a third of what it was before ACA.

    March 31, 2014 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  8. Dean

    Anyone who beleives the Obamacare numbers that are being reported is a bigger idiot than Obama.

    March 31, 2014 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  9. Tampa Tim

    Dean – Anyone who believes the liars that the Kochs and Fox trotted out with made up horror stories about ACA is brain dead.

    March 31, 2014 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    Tampa Tim

    People are beginning to realize that the enrollment period ends for this year, and will have to wait for next year's enrollment to begin in November. (Medicaid, Medicare do not have the same deadline)
    -----------------------
    You can buy health inxurance anytime you want to. November is typically used as a re-enrollment period by most insurers. The significance of the March 31 deadline is that if you were not previously covered, you cannot claim an insurance policy that was purchased after the deadline, but you should be good for next year after, provided that you participate in a re-enrollment come this fall.

    March 31, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  11. Rudy NYC

    Dean

    Anyone who beleives the Obamacare numbers that are being reported is a bigger idiot than Obama.
    ------------------------
    The insurance companies report the numbers to the administration, who then release the total figures. In his way, no one company really knows exactly how well, or how bad, the others are doing.

    If you want to know what the breakdown of the numbers are, again, you're gonna have to do to the insurers, but I don't think they'll be releasing those numbers to readily or quickly. I imagine that they will eventually get released in some annual financial report somewhere down the road. Just don't expect weekly or monthly reports like we get for jobs.

    March 31, 2014 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  12. Lizzie

    Tampa Tim
    People are beginning to realize that the enrollment period ends for this year, and will have to wait for next year's enrollment to begin in November. (Medicaid, Medicare do not have the same deadline)
    MEDICAID you can enroll all year long. MEDICARE you have only a few months in the fall to enroll.
    Yes people are enrolling, if not THEY will pay a penalty and have the wrath of the IRS to deal with. The government says YOU WILL have the insurance WE say you will have, you WILL have a limited access to doctors and hospitals, but you WILL have insurance.

    March 31, 2014 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  13. What's in that Tea Anyway?

    @Lizzie

    ..... The government says YOU WILL have the insurance WE say you will have, you WILL have a limited access to doctors and hospitals, but you WILL have insurance.

    So your solution is "No insurance for anyone that can't afford it"? Wow...how smart you are! That will fix the problem of people walking into an emergency room and walking out without paying the bill and it show up on my premiums. You are a genius...why didn't anyone else think of that? Because ITS NOT A SOLUTION!

    March 31, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  14. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Hate to say it, but I expect the whole thing to crash and stay crashed before the day is out
    -------------------------------------------------
    Let's hope not Rudy.
    They said they experienced a software bug that they manage to wed out a little bit past their regular system's maintenance period early this morning.
    I do not think that the administration would not have anticipated the crush of folks that are trying to at least start the process in order to avail themselves of the extension. Especially after how poorly the system performed in regards to handling the folks trying to log on when it first debuted.
    First day, last day.

    March 31, 2014 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Hate to say it, but I expect the whole thing to crash and stay crashed before the day is out
    -----------------
    Let's hope not Rudy.
    They said they experienced a software bug that they manage to wed out a little bit past their regular system's maintenance period early this morning.
    ----------------------------
    Let's hope the "software bug" that they fixed involved dramatic increase in handling volumes of traffic to the database.

    March 31, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  16. Silence DoGood

    @Harold Read
    There is no "D-Day" for Obamacare.
    The Obama Administration can and has moved the deadlines at their convenience.
    -------------
    At the start of ACA GOP says: We demand delays!
    Obama delays.
    GOP: Who does Obama think he is delaying this???

    March 31, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  17. Forrest

    The sad truth is this law does not really fix anything. It penalizes people for making economic choice. This is a bad role for Government to be in. Imagine if a Republican pushed through a law that said in order to 'help law enforcement' everyone had to own a firearm and be able to use it. Technically under the way the ACA got passed it could be done. And if you do not own a gun you could be taxed 1% – 2.5% of your income for it ' to help pay for additional law enforcement you are not supporting by purchasing a fire arm'

    Now I am not saying this will happen but it is the kind of thing this law has now set up. It is a bad law and it SHOULD NOT have been upheld by the Supreme Court. Chief Justice Roberts was overly permissive on this point, but we now have the precedent and it can mean bad things in the future.

    As for everyone having insurance. I am all for it, but this is not the way to do it. It seems to me that if people had been sent the kind of propaganda material that they have received since the law went into effect they could have insurance at more affordable prices before. Insurance costs have gone up significantly. Oh go ahead and argue with me, but do a little actual research instead of choosing the sound bites that show me as being 'wrong' and you will come to the same conclusion this has not made healthcare affordable.

    Finally subsidy is a bad thing. Subsidizing someones lifestyle leads to significantly different life style choices. This is problematic but does not manifest itself immediately. Oh well...

    Those that think this law is a good idea will not believe anything but what they wish to believe. Single Payer is too new to know ultimately how it play out... Give it another 30 – 50 years and we will know.

    March 31, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  18. Lizzie

    Tampa Tim
    Lizzie – 38 changes? You should fact check, as that is not true, but it does anger Fox viewers too lazy to find the truth.
    -– Tim did I miss a few????

    March 31, 2014 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  19. Tom

    Smoke and Mirrors.

    March 31, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  20. YoonYoungJo

    Well sadly that is the problem when you start allowing major rule breaking. You start to believe everyone is doing it, and then it really is a matter of time before everyone really does start doing it. Thankfully, I doubt Obamacare is cooking the books. The GOP criticism on Obamacare is absurd. This country is so wealthy and to expect poor people in this country to just roll over and die because they can't afford health care is a little too selfish.

    March 31, 2014 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  21. The REAL Truth...

    @Forrest – As for everyone having insurance. I am all for it, but this is not the way to do it. It seems to me that if people had been sent the kind of propaganda material that they have received since the law went into effect they could have insurance at more affordable prices before. Insurance costs have gone up significantly. Oh go ahead and argue with me, but do a little actual research instead of choosing the sound bites that show me as being 'wrong' and you will come to the same conclusion this has not made healthcare affordable.
    -----------------------
    The intent of the conservative plan that is the premise behind ACA was that exchanges set up in every state would stimulate competitive pricing by insurers leading to lower prices. In state that have implemented the exchanges, that has generally been the case. For the red states that refused, not so much. Generally the opposite.. but the GOP's intent behind refusing to set up the exchanges was to make this legislation fail. For most who get their insurance thru employers, the prices went up. They have gone up EVERY year since I started working, but less this year than in prior years. There are edge cases in every situation and the GOP is rolling out their horror stories and the Dems are rolling out their success stories.
    If the GOP was so convinced that ACA is the failure/disaster they portray it to be, surely they would have stepped back and let it crater on it own?? Instead, they have attempted to repeal it 50+ times!! Are they scared that the plan they have tried to implement for 30 yrs is actually going to work?

    March 31, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. rla

    I am sick of an administration that lies without a thought! Let's face it the 30 million at whom this plan was directed are still uninsured, 5-8 million people were forced off their plans to be forced on plans that cost more, have higher deductables and co-pays and guess what are subsidzed with my tax dollar-borrowing and printing money??? Do any of the foolish progressives see a problem here???
    Let me explain:::: The interest on the debt in the next 20 years will consume all revenue, we will not be able to borrow anymre and printing money will lead to hyper inflation.. That means no money for anything else but social programs????
    Please we need leaders that are actually intelligent and will solve this problem through JOBS and a revived economy.... That will hurt as the progressive agenda in unwound

    March 31, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  23. sonnie3

    The aca fiasco lives on

    March 31, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  24. j p haynes

    An estimated $24b was wasted on the gov't shutdown, voted 51 times to repeal the ACA, is the least productive congress in my lfetime, and republicans complain about waste. That 24 b could've been used for infrastructure, unemployment benefits, early childhood development, the DEBT, etc. We need people in congress willing to help the country move forward regarless if the ideologies differ. Find a way to improve our country for the better. That's for both parties.

    March 31, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  25. j p haynes

    The shutdown was for 16 days. $24 b and 16 days went down the drain to unproductiveness. How much did those 51 votes to repeal cost? That's the cost of sending the wrong people to congress. We can't always have what we want. You have to compromise.

    March 31, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
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