The successful December 1 relaunch of Healthcare.gov has largely been good news for the administration of President Obama. While still far from flawless, the reworked website draws the political contrast between the president and his opponents much more sharply, pitting data on the law's success against anecdotes of its failures.
Over the weekend, the Obama administration was happy to report that Healthcare.gov's tech surge was successful. The website now works 90 percent of the time and can support up to 50,000 users at one time, with an error rate of less than 1 percent. Even before the relaunch, enrollments in November were up; Bloomberg reported on Monday that over 100,000 people enrolled through the federal exchange, four times 26,794 who enrolled in October, but still below the administration's goal.
That 1 percent error rate, however, still means that one out of every 100 people using the system will encounter a problem; the 90 percent up-time means that one hour out of every 10, the site may be problematic. For Republicans, that's all the evidence they need in order to launch political attacks.
The Republican strategy has long been based on anecdotal opposition, the individual stories of people negatively affected by the healthcare switchover. Starting with Sen. Ted Cruz's late-September sorta-filibuster, heavily reliant on tweets, Republicans have focused collecting incidents that cast Obamacare in a negative light — with which, of course, the faulty website eagerly complied. Last week, the House Republicans unveiled a political playbook which called for using anecdotes to critique the law. As The New York Times wrote, the plan "is to gather stories of people affected by the health care law … and use them to open a line of attack, keep it going until it enters the public discourse and forces a response, then quickly pivot to the next topic."