The real problem with Obamacare is not that the launch has been plagued by glitches, computer crashes and blocked screens. These superficial manifestations of its incompetent administration are not the key problem the program faces.
The lethal threat to its future is that nobody wants it or needs it. The glitches have permitted the administration to hide the dismally low enrollment figures behind assurances that they wanted to sign up but couldn’t.
Using national projections and specific data from New York:
–Total population: 17 million
–Estimated uninsured: 3.5 million
–Visited site: 1 million
–Sought to enroll: “several thousands”
So only about two or three-tenths of 1 percent of the uninsured have sought to enroll in Obamacare. Only about 3 percent of those who have registered have sought to enroll. And none have succeeded.
Nationally, that would work out to only about 50,000 enrollment applications — a dismal performance for the first three weeks of the program’s availability.
The high rate of site visits and registration measured against the low number of enrollment applications suggest the basic truth: That as people see and learn more about the Obamacare policies and prices, they do not want to buy it. And they are staying away in droves.
While there are glitches with which to contend and the system is far from functioning smoothly, the total lack of interest these enrollment figures illustrate poses a lethal political threat to President Obama’s political viability.
We debated Obamacare for years. We explored its cost, the justification for its mandatory provisions. We examined its impact on the quality of care. We discussed its constitutionality. We all probed each aspect of this debate. But to my knowledge nobody — nobody — said that people wouldn’t want it or need it. That they would give a war and nobody would come. This possibility never occurred to me.
Yet, it is the plain fact.
Obama is trying to hide the low interest and low enrollment behind computer glitches. He avows that he is furious and imports techies to fix it and puts the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius out there to testify before Congress on the glitches. If the first half of October was shutdown month, the second half has been glitch month.
Obama wants us to focus on the glitches so that we don’t look behind the curtain at the more serious problem — that he monopolized America’s attention, neglected the economy, polarized us politically and staked his whole administration and spent billions of dollars to fix something that wasn’t broke.
If the low enrollment figures persist, the very basis of the case for Obamacare will have eroded around its foundations. The suffering 50 million who do not have insurance will be exposed as neither wanting nor being able to afford it.
To the average 27-year-old, facing premiums in the $300-$400 range, the question is: Do you buy health insurance on an Obamacare exchange or do you buy a car? Which one?
I believe that the entire Obama administration will be discredited in history if the demand for this program persists at this low level. It is always hard to repeal an entitlement program once it is launched. But if only a million people apply for it, repeal is not that difficult.
This program will go down in history as the greatest failure in recent domestic-policy legislation. Not because of its cost or impact on care, but because of low enrollment and interest.