Obamacare: It’s in Trouble, But the Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung Yet

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I’ve been reading a lot about the problems with the Obamacare website over the past week, but I haven’t commented much about it lately. That’s largely because there’s a huge fire hose of reports coming in, some of them contradictory, and it’s really hard to make any concrete sense out of them. But here’s where I am right now. No links to specific reports, just my sort of holistic feel for what’s going on:

  • Take everything you hear with a grain of salt. Most of it—both good and bad—is coming from people who don’t have direct, first-hand experience with the code.
  • That said, the problems are obviously pretty severe. Don’t let wishful thinking persuade you otherwise.
  • Throwing programmers at the problem isn’t likely to help. It takes months to get up to speed on a big piece of software, and you can’t contribute fixes until you’ve done that. Like it or not, the website is going to get fixed by roughly the same team that wrote it in the first place.
  • Things do seem to be improving a bit. This is a hopeful sign because it suggests that the problems aren’t entirely intractable. It’s possible that fixes to half a dozen key pieces of code could get the system hobbling along.
  • Phones and paper forms aren’t a panacea, but we should all keep in mind that, in a pinch, they’ll do the job. As recently as a decade ago, that’s all we would have had, and it would have worked OK.
  • This isn’t the first time something like this has happened, so don’t panic. Not yet, anyway.

I hate to say this because I know it’s so typically Drummish, but the evidence so far suggests to me that we saw an underreaction during the first couple of weeks of October (probably shutdown related) followed by an overreaction now. Everybody is piling on based on news reports that offer up a steady stream of worrying tidbits. But that’s no better than pretending everything is OK. Right now, most of us are still in the dark about what’s truly wrong with the system. None of us should pretend to know more than we do.

That said, the reaction to Obamacare’s problems really doesn’t matter much. Within a few weeks, either the website will work or it won’t. If it works, everyone will forget about the late-October panic fest. If it doesn’t, Obamacare is screwed. The reality on the ground, not the spin, is all that matters now.

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REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

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