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With Republicans treating Oct. 1 as some sort of health insurance apocalypse, it's going to be difficult for the administration to take the focus off of that day, the first day that the uninsured and enroll in plans on health insurance exchanges. That's the plan, however, recognizing that the first few weeks of enrollments are likely to be glitchy and problematic, and wanting the public to understand that they will have a full six months to sign up.
Given all the worries that web sites could crash, call centers could be overwhelmed, and the federal government’s data hub could falter as it checks eligibility and subsidies, they’d rather see a slow buildup during an open enrollment season that runs through March.

“October 1 will be an important day to raise awareness, but it is the first day of a six-month public education effort,” said Tara McGuinness, a senior White House communications adviser working on rollout of the health law. [...]

Democratic supporters of the law say that 2014 enrollment shouldn’t be measured until open enrollment ends in late March. In fact, they say, it may take two or three years to really evaluate such a dramatic new program. The Congressional Budget Office has forecast gradual growth in coverage over the years.

None of this means that October 1 isn’t important— it is. The administration hopes the start of enrollment will drive a lot of attention to the law from the media and on social networks, which will encourage uninsured people to check out the new exchanges. But people are likely to mull over options, and come back to the websites and marketing materials more than once before they commit. They may not want to pay in October if they can wait until December for coverage in January.

That’s what happened when Massachusetts opened its exchange in late 2006.

October, however, will be noisy and fractious as Republicans either force a government shutdown or a debt ceiling crisis to stop the inevitable: people who don't have health insurance getting it. Expect every computer glitch, no matter how small, to be heralded as proof that the entire law is an utter fiasco. Expect slow enrollments to be declared as absolute proof that the American people hate the law. And when it does work, expect the people who do enroll, and find out that they actually can afford health insurance, to be vilified as undeserving moochers.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Mon Sep 16, 2013 at 12:33 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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