Some clouds

PD Editorial: A 2nd try for federal health website

  • This artwork by M. Ryder relates to website woes experienced by HealthCare.gov.

Like a Broadway musical that flopped with preview audiences, healthcare.gov debuted again this week after a quick overhaul.

The website is largely debugged, Obama administration officials announced, allowing residents in 36 states to shop online for health insurance without computer glitches. Fourteen other states, including California, are managing their own enrollment portals.

"The site is now stable and operating at its intended capacity, with greatly improved performance," Jeffrey Zients, the White House official in charge of fixing the federal website, told reporters on Sunday.

We hope he's right.

Two months have been lost, and untold thousands of people were discouraged from applying by registration problems and frozen screens. More technical trouble would be an enormous, perhaps even fatal, setback for a program so closely associated with the president that supporters and opponents alike call it Obamacare.

There's far more at stake than President Barack Obama's sagging political fortunes. He is pursuing a goal that has stymied presidents from both parties for more than a century: universal health care.

Obamacare won't be truly universal. It can, however, extend coverage to 92 percent of Americans, reducing the ranks of the uninsured by 25 million within three years, according to projections by the Congressional Budget Office.

The challenge — and the real test for the revamped website — is getting people signed up.

For insurance to take effect on Jan. 1, people must enroll by Dec. 23. To avoid a fine for failing to obtain coverage, the enrollment deadline is March 31.

With its upgrades, the federal website is supposed to support 50,000 visitors at a time and up to 800,000 a day. By 6 p.m. Monday, officials said, more than 700,000 people had logged on. Almost 18,000 people signed up, double the previous high.

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