Policy: Technology

Obamacare is finally working about as well as Amazon

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Barack Obama,Obamacare,Analysis,Healthcare.gov,Technology

Obamacare and Amazon are running at about the same level of efficiency, just as President Obama promised, to judge from reports of missed Christmas deliveries.

"A surge in online shopping this holiday season left stores breaking promises to deliver packages by Christmas, suggesting that retailers and shipping companies still haven't fully figured out consumers' buying patterns in the Internet era," the Wall Street Journal reports.

Or, as Obama put it in a different context, "Even if we get the hardware and software working exactly the way its supposed to, with relatively minor glitches, what we're also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy."

UPS Inc. attributed the problems to high demand. "The volume of air packages in the UPS system did exceed capacity as demand was much greater than our forecast," a spokeswoman said.

That's a familiar explanation to Americans following the Obamacare rollout. "[T]he volume far exceeded our expectations and that the volume has driven the problems that we've seen and exposed some of the problems that we now know about," White House press secretary Jay Carney has often told reporters.

Government spin doctors, at least, deliver care with private-sector efficiency.

The problems are more fundamental than high traffic, of course. "[I]nsurers have been reporting a high error rate on the so-called 834 forms, which transmit enrollment data on individuals from the federal government to the insurers," as the Washington Examiner's Philip Klein wrote. "These errors have involved mixing up spouses and children, duplicating some enrollments, inadvertently canceling others.

"If unfixed, insurers won’t have accurate information on who is supposed to have enrolled in insurance by Jan. 1 and won’t be able to smoothly process a large number of payments, which are essential to insurance taking effect," Klein added.

As it happens, there's a loose analogy for that trouble in the Christmas gift fiasco. "In notifications to some Amazon customers, UPS said there were some shipping delays because it had 'not yet received the package from the shipper,' " the Wall Street Journal reports.

"Now, this is real simple," Obama said in September, before he knew how "complicated" health care reform really is. "It's a website where you can compare and purchase affordable health insurance plans, side by side, the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak, same way you shop for a TV on Amazon. You just go on and you start looking, and here are all the options."

If that promise was fulfilled this Christmas, it wasn't in the way Obama intended.

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