Obamacare has a new antagonist: The Obamacare sign-up website.
Over the weekend, healthcare.gov was pulled down for maintenance at off-peak hours because of persistent glitches people encountered once the site went, er, “live” on Tuesday.
The computer snafu was like a gift to Republicans, who have suffered in the polls since precipitating a partial-government shutdown over Obamacare that happened to coincide with the website’s launch.
With each reported website woe, it’s easier for Republicans to draw a line between a possible computer programming failure and a government program failure. Unlike the government shutdown, Republicans bear no discernable blame for the online shutdown.
In damage control, President Barack Obama and his administration urged patience and understanding. They’ve released web-traffic numbers, but refuse to disclose enrollment figures.
“What’s happened is the website got overwhelmed by the volume," Obama told the Associated Press in an interview released Saturday.
“Folks are working around the clock and have been systematically reducing the wait times,” Obama said. “But we are confident that over the course of the six months — because it's important to remember people have six months to sign up — that we are going to probably exceed what anybody expected in terms of the amount of interest that people have."
How could the Obama Administration not design a system to handle demand from the start? Isn’t that a raison d'être of the Affordable Care Act — that there’s demand or need from up to 48 million uninsured Americans (about 3.8 million in Florida, the second-least insured state behind Texas)?
And is this really a case of a great online product suffering from being too desirable?
Computer experts have their doubts.
“I'm betting it's a mixture of volume, scaling up, and definitely some code problems,” Clay Ewing, a University of Miami software expert told the Miami’s Herald’s Florida Health Watch blog.
In encountering error messages when he logged on, Ewing speculated: “There are several points of potential failure.”
“This is not solely a traffic issue,” Dan Mendelson, CEO of consultant Avalere Health, told Kaiser Health News. “There are more underlying issues that have to be resolved.”
Software aside, the most-noticeable failure is political.
The glitches are the computer equivalent of a politician’s gaffe that bolster an opponent’s criticism.
But Republicans only have so much credibility in the public’s eyes when it comes to health insurance and the partial-government shutdown, polls show.
A Quinnipiac University national poll last week found Obama was more trusted than the GOP in Congress on handing healthcare.
The Affordable Care Act was opposed 47-45 percent, but the poll showed the move to shutdown major activities of the federal government over Obamacare was opposed 72-22 percent, with only Republican voters favoring it 49-45 percent.
Still, though House Republicans precipitated the shutdown over Obamacare, Democrats have helped prolong it.
Democrats have refused piecemeal bills to open up parts of the budget again, saying they don’t want Obamacare defunded by process of elimination. Democrats also oppose delaying the act for a year, but respondents in a FOX News poll found that the public supports delay 57-39 percent.