When it comes to health care, the rollout of the Affordable Care Act was supposed to be measured in the millions. That’s how many people were expected to sign up for insurance to begin on Jan. 1.
But for both supporters and opponents of the law, there’s one number that sticks out above all others. Six. That’s how many people actually managed to enroll through the federal HealthCare.gov website the first day it opened, Oct. 1.
About the only thing that was clear for the first month was that, except in a handful of states, things were going anything but smoothly.
Federal officials steadfastly refused to release any enrollment numbers until mid-November. That led to cries of outrage from political pundits, threats of investigations by members of Congress, and a steady stream of ridicule.
On Oct. 27, Saturday Night Live opened its show with Kate McKinnon playing embattled Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“If our website still isn’t loading properly,” McKinnon deadpanned, “we’re probably just overloaded with traffic. Millions of Americans are visiting HealthCare.gov. Which is great news. Unfortunately the site was only designed to handle six users at a time.”
Little did SNL’s writers know how accurate they were. Just days later, notes subpoenaed by the House Oversight Committee revealed that was precisely how many people successfully navigated the site from beginning to end on HealthCare.gov’s opening day.
“You could not have had a more difficult start for the law,” Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an interview.
Altman says the botched rollout had two main impacts. One was on the millions of people actually trying to sign up, “because it may have turned off people who wanted to enroll. And we will see how
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