On May 1, Judicial Watch obtained a 106-page document from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) revealing that on its first full day of operation, Oct. 1, 2013, Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov received one enrollment. That’s it — one. As in a single digit removed from absolute zero, which is as low as you can get on the numerical scale and still register as anything other than a cipher.
Out of 316 million people in the United States of America badgered with government propaganda day and night for months, one person signed up for the Obama administration’s much-ballyhooed signature achievement. Millions of people were essentially ordered, with the blessing of the Supreme Court, to sign up or face the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). One did.
How embarrassing is this sorry number for the Obama administration? Well, it is embarrassing enough that Judicial Watch had to sue HHS in order to get it to come clean about the full extent of its massive failure. Of course, everyone knew that something had gone terribly wrong with the $667 million Healthcare.gov website. As the Chicago Tribune reported, “Consumers seeking more information on their new options under the Affordable Care Act were met with long delays, error messages and a largely non-working federal insurance exchange and call center.” However, the Obama administration was adamant about not revealing the full scope of its unmitigated disaster.
Pressed for an explanation in a conference call with reporters on the afternoon of the grand launch, Marilyn Tavenner, head of the HHS Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, refused to disclose the number of people who had purchased insurance through the site, saying, “We have just decided not to release that yet.” CBS News reported, “No one knows how many people have managed to enroll. The administration refuses to release those numbers.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to deflect queries by blaming the American people for being too stupid to use the Internet.
No one really knew the full extent of the Healthcare.gov disaster until Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in November 2013 and finally obtained the full report on May 1. What the full report showed was a failure so massive that had the scope and scan been fully known at the outset, it could have led to the collapse of Obamacare.
According to the government’s own (carefully concealed) records: On Oct. 1, there were 43,208 accounts created and one enrollment.
As of Oct. 31, there were 1,319,425 accounts created nationwide, but only 30,512 actual enrollments in Obamacare.
At 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 1, the end of the first day, Brigid M. Russell, the senior adviser at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight, sent out an email to her staff with a subject line celebrating “2 enrollments!” The body copy of the email read: “We have our second official [Federally Facilitated Marketplace] enrollment! The first two Form 834s sent out are to: 1) CareSource in Ohio, 2) BCBS of North Carolina.”
Official figures contained in the HHS report provide conflicting figures as to the number of enrollments. Federally Facilitated Marketplace statistics show 23,259 cumulative to-date applications submitted as of Oct. 2 and 286 completed plan selections. Earlier numbers show 356 enrollments created as of 7 p.m. on Oct. 2, which were completed with Form 834s applications sent.
An Oct. 2 email from HHS Special Assistant Marianne Bowen indicated serious problems with congressional enrollments: “The Congressional issue (68 attempts for Direct enrollment) was an issue stemming from incomplete applications being sent through (started, not finished, sent anyway) and the way the issuers are assigning unique numbers. Turns out there were only 4 complete Direct Enrollment applications that went through, the other 64 were not complete.” (The U.S. Congress has approximately 24,000 professional staffers.)
On Oct. 2, the Obamacare website had 70 million page views but only 5 million were unique visitors, and 48 percent of registrations failed. The large number of page views may have been the result of visitors repeatedly hitting the “refresh” button due to long waiting times.
When news first broke of the Healthcare.gov disaster, late-night comedian Jay Leno joked, “The good news is that Obamacare does cover Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, the result of pressing the computer trying to get through to the stupid Obamacare website.” In fact, there was no good news with Obamacare, and that’s why the Obama administration foisted a news blackout on the American people.
Shortly after Judicial Watch released the full details of the website launch disaster, support for Obamacare plummeted to an all-time low of 26 percent. Perhaps the Obama administration knew from the outset that if the American people had known the full extent of the billion-dollar debacle on the day of the launch, 26 percent support may have been the all-time high.
Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch and author of “The Corruption Chronicles” (Threshold Editions, 2012).