Obamacare’s diehard supporters will tell you, as they have repeatedly since the law squeaked past a Democratic supermajority in the Senate by a margin of four votes, give it time. In time, President Obama assured an uneasy public in 2010 (and again in 2011, 2012, etc.), people will come to know all the good things the law brings and will love it as much as he and his cronies in the legislature claim to. (They don’t love it enough to want to have to buy health insurance through one of its exchanges, but that’s another story.)
So, is time on their side? Not judging from a new analysis by Kantar US Insights via The Washington Post. The survey reveals that the number of visitors to HealthCare.gov fell precipitously — by 88% — between Oct. 1 and Oct. 13, the day the results of the study were reported.
It gets worse. The numbers, crunched by the nonpartisan research firm Millward Brown Digital (formerly Compete, Inc.), show that a scant 0.4% of the site’s visitors successfully enrolled the first week. Not that that many tried. Of 5.68 million people who visited the individual marketplace, only 196,000 began enrollment, and 36,000 completed the process.
So much for the administration’s claim that the numerous glitches frustrated users were experiencing were the result of heavier-than-expected traffic, which was overburdening the site.
This revelation calls into question an assumption previously made by detractors and supporters of the health care law alike that once Americans were hooked on “hopium,” there would be no turning back. But at the current rate of enrollment, the number of users may be so minuscule that widespread addiction to being on the government dole never kicks in.
Unsurprisingly, the administration believes the new study is flawed. From the Post article:
An administration official who asked not to be identified because enrollment figures have not been published said the numbers in the Kantar US Insights report were ‘inaccurate.’
And Aneesh Chopra, who served as the White House’s first-ever chief technology officer during President Obama’s first term, said the analysis actually captured the public’s sustained interest in signing up for health insurance on the federal exchange. He noted that while the total number of visitors to the site is interesting, it matters much more that one million Americans created an online account.
‘Account creation is always the holy grail. That’s the moment that matters,’ Chopra said in an interview. ‘In one week, a million people began a process that will result in affordable coverage. That means a lot of people are going to ultimately get the product.’
The Post also features encouraging words from Matthew Pace, vice president of digital at Millward Brown, who wrote in a post at the company’s blog:
Although healthcare.gov has had a rocky start, the fact that millions of Americans not only visited the exchanges but also took what actions they could to register and enroll suggests that demand indeed exists for new healthcare options. As the site improves and more consumers are able to progress through the enrollment process, the ranks of the newly insured will rise.
But Pace’s optimism is tempered by a healthy dose of skepticism. His post concludes with the advice that “in time, it will be up to consumers to decide how truly affordable Obamacare turns out to be.” So far the horror stories have far outpaced the victory dances. And since most narratives come back to the notion of sticker shock over bloated premium costs under the new health care law, smart money suggests that the law’s future is anything but rosy.
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