May Not Be Fixed By November 30th

With just over two weeks today, rumors are starting to float out that the efforts to fix the Federal Exchange website may not be done in time.


It’s been nearly six weeks now since the Federal Obamacare Exchange,, was officially launched. Its problems, of course, have been well documented both here and elsewhere and are likely the primary contributor to what are clearly disappointingly low enrollment numbers. In the immediate aftermath of the bad press reports that followed the bad roll out, the Administration made a promise that the site would be fixed by the end of this month, and they’ve stuck by that promise consistently ever since  then. Today, though, The Washington Post passes on reports from behind the scenes of the repair effort that seem to indicate that November 30th is likely to come and go without the site being fixed:

Software problems with the federal online health insurance marketplace, especially in handling high volumes, are proving so stubborn that the system is unlikely to work fully by the end of the month as the White House has promised, according to an official with knowledge of the project.

The insurance exchange is balking when more than 20,000 to 30,000 people attempt to use it at the same time — about half its intended capacity, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal information. And CGI Federal, the main contractor that built the site, has succeeded in repairing only about six of every 10 of the defects it has addressed so far.

Government workers and tech­nical contractors racing to repair the Web site have concluded, the official said, that the only way for large numbers of Americans to enroll in the health-care plans soon is by using other means so that the online system isn’t overburdened.

This inside view of the halting nature of repairs is emerging as the insurance industry is working behind the scenes on contingency plans, in case the site continues to have problems. And it calls into question the repeated assurances by the White House and other top officials that the insurance exchange will work smoothly for the vast majority of Americans by Nov. 30. Speaking in Dallas a week ago, President Obama said that the “Web site is already better than it was at the beginning of October, and by the end of this month, we anticipate that it is going to be working the way it is supposed to, all right?”

And, indeed, the White House was quick to push back on today’s report, saying that they fully expect the website to be fully operational in the next 17 days and standing by their promise that all will be well by November 30th. Those reassurances not withstanding, though, today’s report is the latest in a series of reports that have suggested, subtly, that the problems with the website may continue beyond the deadline, especially when it comes to the less-reported, but far more important issue of whether or not the insurance companies listed on the exchange are being given sufficient or accurate data to allow them to process individual applications. As Ezra Klein and others have pointed out over the past month, this back office problem, rather than the web site integrity problems that users continue to face on a seemingly random basis, could end up being the true Achilles Heal of the entire PPACA roll out. In the end, if the insurance companies aren’t getting correct data from the website(s), then the system simply isn’t going to work at all and people who thought they had signed p for insurance that will begin on January 1st may find that they don’t have insurance at all due to data issues that were entirely beyond their control.

Reacting to today’s news, Klein and Evan Soltas had this to say:

Blowing through the December 1st deadline obviously creates huge political problems for the White House. But does it create correspondingly huge policy problems for the law?

The answer depends on two things.

First, does the White House’s evident inability to repair the Web site in a timely fashion (or even, at this point, an untimely fashion) lead congressional Democrats to panic and support bills — like a yearlong delay in the individual mandate — that make it harder for the law to succeed even once its digital infrastructure is fixed? T

he second question, of course, is how far off-schedule the White House really is. If is working smoothly for the majority of users on December 1st but it only works smoothly for the “vast majority” of users on December 15th, that won’t matter much. If the Web site remains more or less unusable into 2014, that’s obviously a much bigger problem for the law. But because there’s so little visibility into the process, no one really knows. And the White House, thus far, has not been a particularly credible guide.

At first glance, it seems clear that a failure to be able to make the December 1st deadline will make the political headache for the White House and for Democrats who, before this whole mess started, seemed to be on top of the political world thanks to the GOP’s misguided defunding plan that led to a completely unnecessary government shutdown. Democrats who are vulnerable in 2014, many of whom are already sponsoring legislation that would delay or extend certain deadlines related to when individuals must sign up for insurance, would likely distance themselves even further from the White House. Additionally, as I noted yesterday, further delays in the viability of the website sign-up process are likely to make it less likely that people will sign up at all, which will create a whole new set of problems that will impact the health care insurance market as a whole.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that none of this will come to pass and that the website will be fully functional as promised. At that point, though, it’s not at all clear that the political controversy that has developed around the ObamaCare rollout will dissappate significantly. Even if the Administration can put the issue of a non-functional website behind it, the question simply will transition to whether people actually do start signing up for coverage in the numbers that are needed, and how the issue of canceled policies continued to play out. Whether the website is “working” after November 30th isn’t completely relevant to either of those issues, although one does wonder if the fact that it took two months for the Federal Government to do something as seemingly simple as develop a functional website will degrade public confidence in the system so much that people will simply stay away no matter how many assurances they get about the website.

At the very least, however, it’s clear that this roll out has been nothing short of an epic disaster. Remarkably, though, not a single person has yet to be fired over it.

FILED UNDER: Healthcare Policy, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Better go back to the old health care system…the one that costs us more than almost any other developed nation…and produces worse results.
    The one where free-riders cost us all more money.
    Sucks for a lot of people with pre-existing conditions, or people who are over their lifetime caps too.
    Tough shit I guess.
    Maybe we could ask Republicans for a plan.
    Oh wait…Obamacare is their plan…and they don’t have another one.
    Other than to bitch un-productively.

  2. David M says:

    It will likely be working before the GOP has a coherent health care plan. It will likely be working before the GOP stops holding up the Medicaid expansion. Seems to be right on schedule compared to the alternative.

  3. Jack says:

    You flockers get what you deserve. I hope everyone who voted for this president loses their health insurance or faces a 300% rate increase. In the words of Nelson Muntz, Ha, ha!

  4. bandit says:

    Poor lib douchebags – twisting themselves into knots and trying to wish this away.

  5. rudderpedals says:

    Expect increasing FUD

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Poor lib douchebags – twisting themselves into knots and trying to wish this away.

    As opposed to poor con doucebags — twisting themselves into knots with their hatred of PPACA and trying to wish it away…and yet, despite all the problems with this rollout, it isn’t going anywhere…

  7. Dave Schuler says:

    Either the web site and backoffice components are working by the deadline or the Administration makes another deadline.

    They don’t really have any choice. It’s the only face-saving strategy for them.

  8. David M says:


    I hope everyone who voted for this president loses their health insurance or faces a 300% rate increase. In the words of Nelson Muntz, Ha, ha!

    What’s the deal with conservatives literally getting off on the idea that people might not get health care? It’s bizarre.

  9. Mr. Replica says:

    The Dole Healthcare Plan, Romeycare, Obamacare, PPACA is just going through the motions currently. The GOP lost, but their mantra has always been if government works, break it, and then blame the government for not working.

    So, they have thrown as many wrenches in as possible at the federal and state levels. Made up as many buzzwords, talking points etc. as they could, in hopes of NOT losing the elections they have.

    It’s only a matter of time until these same politicians will be climbing over one another at election time promising their constituents that they will make the system as strong as possible.

    “You hear that Mr. Anderson?… That is the sound of inevitability…”

  10. slimslowslider says:


    I hope everyone who voted for this president loses their health insurance or faces a 300% rate increase.


  11. David M says:

    The size and scope of the federal exchange is a Republican attempt to sabotage Obamacare. Seems odd that the GOP are taken seriously after they announce that are trying to cause Obamacare to fail, sabotage the implementation at every turn and then complain that it isn’t working perfectly.

  12. JKB says:

    I’m thinking of that great Progressive reach. Prohibition. It failed in its promise, spawned lawlessness, people hated it and in the end, it was repealed. We have the first 3 with Obamacare. Dare we hope for the fourth?

  13. JKB says:

    As seen on the circuit:

    Bob: “Did you hear about the Obama administration scandal?

    Jim: “You mean the Mexican gun running?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “You mean SEAL Team 6?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “You mean the State Dept. lying about Benghazi?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “You mean voter fraud?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “You mean the military not getting their votes counted?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “You mean that 3 or 4 of Obama’s GAY friends were mysteriously MURDERED when they came forward with claims he was gay too?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “The NSA monitoring our phone calls, emails and everything else?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “You mean the drones in our own country without the benefit of the law?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “Giving 123 Technologies $300 Million and right after it declared bankruptcy and was sold to the Chinese?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “You mean the president arming the Muslim Brotherhood?”

    Bob: “No the other one:.

    Jim: “The IRS targeting conservatives?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “The DOJ spying on the press?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “Sebelius shaking down health insurance executives?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “Giving SOLYNDRA $500 MILLION DOLLARS and 3 months later they declared bankruptcy and then the Chinese bought it?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “The president’s ordering the release of nearly 10,000 illegal immigrants from jails and prisons, and falsely blaming the sequester?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “The president’s threat to impose gun control by Executive Order in order to bypass Congress?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “The president’s repeated violation of the law requiring him to submit a budget no later than the first Monday in February?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “The 2012 vote where 115% of all registered voters in some counties voted 100% for Obama?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “The president’s unconstitutional recess appointments in an attempt to circumvent the Senate’s advise-and-consent role?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “The State Department interfering with an Inspector General investigation on departmental sexual misconduct?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “Clinton, the IRS, Clapper and Holder all lying to Congress?”

    Bob: “No, the other one.”

    Jim: “I give up! … Oh wait, I think I got it! You mean that 65 million low-information voters who don’t pay taxes and get free stuff from taxpayers and stuck us again with the most pandering, corrupt administration in American history?

    Bob: “THAT’S THE ONE!”

  14. beth says:


    Nurse Ratched: That’s enough boys – time to turn off Fox News, leave the tv room, take your meds and get back to bed.

  15. Ron Beasley says:

    We hear about these problems when the government is involved but not when it’s in the private sector and it happen there all the time.

  16. Tyrell says:

    Here is how to get more people to sign up. Offer plans that cover dental/orthodontal treatment. Offer cosmetic and plastic surgery that covers implants. Offer vision coverage that includes laser surgery.

  17. Jack says:

    @Ron Beasley: The private sector makes $5000.00 toilet seats and $2,000.00 hammers to sell to a non govermnet customer? The private sector sells over 2000 guns to mexican drug lords? The private sector gets documents from the IRS to use against their competitors? The private sector treats the military like their own little social experiment? Who knew?

  18. David M says:


    The private sector sells over 2000 guns to mexican drug lords?

    That is comedy gold there. Most of what you wrote was fact-free gibberish, but that’s one of the [unintentionally] funniest things I’ve ever seen from a conservative here.

  19. wr says:

    @JKB: Wow. First I thought you were kind of stupid for believing evertyhing you heard from right wing gossip sites. Then I read more of your postings and figured you were more crazy. But reading this vile crap, I guess I’ll have to go with evil.

  20. JKB says:


    I notice you offer no counter to any one of those facts about Obama and his administration. Couldn’t you find one that was just a little bit not completely true?

    BTW, what channel does Fox News come on. You guys are always talking about what you saw on it, I figure I should check it out.

  21. David M says:


    “facts”. You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

    And I have to agree with wr at this point, given the options of stupid, crazy or evil.

  22. C. Clavin says:


    Poor lib douchebags – twisting themselves into knots and trying to wish this away.

    As opposed to Tea Baggers…who have voted 42 times to get rid of it…and failed 42 times.

  23. C. Clavin says:

    Jesus-gawd…that was stupid even for you.

  24. Gavrilo says: is working perfectly. The only reason for the pathetically low number of enrollments is that people like to procrastinate…blah…blahh…Romneycare…blah…Massachusetts…blaaaaaaah…..

  25. David M says:


    We have a lot of visitors on our site right now and JKB has already won the prize for most idiotic comment this thread. Please wait here until a new thread is posted and you can try again. Thanks for your patience!

  26. grumpy realist says:

    Note that for all the sound and fury against Obamacare, no one on the other side has come up with a single peep about the following problems:

    1) rescission by health insurance providers
    2) pre-existing conditions
    3) lifetime limits on amount paid out
    4) unemployed people without insurance
    5) inadequate health coverage when you buy a cut-rate plan.

    We’re going to stick with Obamacare, warts and all, because you people have provided no alternatives.

    Obamacare gets repealed? What do you think the news agencies will then do? They will immediately turn around and look for people who have pre-existing conditions who are getting thrown off their health care. If you think you’ve seen a stink so far because of the problems of getting people on to the exchanges–just wait until you try to take health care away from the people who can’t get it under the prior system.

  27. beth says:

    @jkb: You’re right. Most of that stuff was too nutty even for Fox News. You clearly are a World Net Daily kind of guy.

  28. Jack says:

    @David M: You don’t have to like the facts, you just have to accept them.

  29. David M says:


    LOL. There’s no reason to do anything but laugh at that type of conservative nonsense and mock the fools who believe it.

  30. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: No, they didn’t fail. All 42 bills were approved by the house and Dirty Harry Reid failed to bring them up in the Senate. You guys love to ream the house when it doesn’t bring up legislation you like (Dream Act, Immigration reform, etc) but you have no problem giving the Senate a pass because it is led by a Pedophilic old man with a D after his name.

  31. Jack says:

    @David M: You mean like the fools that believe(d) in Obamacare? Yes, I laugh every day!

  32. David M says:


    Obamacare is working fine here in Washington State, where the GOP wasn’t able to sabotage the implementation.

    What is the Republican alternative to Obamacare besides repealing it? If it’s so bad, why can’t they come up with something better?

  33. steve s says:

    I’ve asked before, but is there a pie filter for this site? The dumb trolls are getting thicker lately.

  34. Jack says:

    @David M: People from all over the world would come to America to take part in our Medical system. It wasn’t broke before Obamacare.

  35. David M says:


    People from all over the world would come to America to take part in our Medical system. It wasn’t broke before Obamacare.

    The stupid. It burns.

  36. Jack says:

    @steve s: Spoken like a true lib. Censor the comments we don’t like because they make me uncomfortable and shine sunshine onto my mildewed thought process.

  37. Jack says:

    @David M: And yet you can only reply with snark. Can you form an intelligent sentence to refute my post? I thought not.

  38. David M says:


    It’s such obvious nonsense that it shouldn’t need refuting, but here you go.

    The American Health Care System Sucks

  39. C. Clavin says:

    They didn’t fail?
    Obamacare has been repealed?

  40. JKB says:


    No worries, we’ll still have a great medical care system. Our best doctors and hospitals aren’t in the Obamacare plans. That’ll free up more space for the wealthy Liberals and government workers.

  41. An Interested Party says:

    …a Pedophilic old man…

    Oh? And who are the children that he has touched? Do provide some proof for your outrageous claim, lest we realize that are nothing more than a loony hard right nut who just pulls $hit out of his ass and who pushes only spittle-flecked nonsense that no one needs to take seriously…

  42. David M says:


    So no response to “The American Health Care System Sucks”?

  43. Grewgills says:

    You do realize that all medical insurance has to be PPACA compliant, right?
    My insurance already was PPACA compliant, since I live in a state with more requirements than PPACA, My insurance will remain unchanged in coverage and price as will the coverage for my wife and daughter. I think I might actually save on insurance for my wife and daughter if I buy on the exchanges, but I will probably remain with Kaiser because it will be easier to have all of us on one plan.