President Obama's healthcare rollout re-do is headed for a crucial test Saturday – and there's a lot on the line.
If the federal healthcare.gov website doesn’t deliver, the president's credibility, political support and fate of his landmark health care law could be in jeopardy. If the site is able to recover from its disastrous Oct. 1 rollout, it will go a long way is restoring confidence in the program.
The financial success of the Affordable Care Act rests in getting young, healthy people to sign up for the program. If they lose interest or bolt, the program will not be profitable.
The White House says it's made numerous upgrades in both software and hardware over the last month, which will allow the site to be able to handle 50,000 users at once and more than 800,000 visitors a day.
However, in the days leading up to the self-imposed deadline, the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services, have started to scale back expectations, saying not to expect the site to be 100 percent glitch-free.
"If there are extraordinarily high spikes in traffic, which exceed the site's capacity, consumers will be put in a new, advanced queuing system that will give them an expected wait time, or allow them to be notified via when they can return to the site," Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told reporters on Nov. 25.
Obama recently said he'd consider a "fix" to be successful if 80 percent of the people are able to navigate the site without a major problem.
Both Democrats and Republicans will be closely watching the site this weekend. With the midterm elections less than a year away, it's vital to Democrats that the site lives up to expectations the president set. Republicans have already suggested they'll launch coordinated attacks linking every congressional Democrat up for re-election to ObamaCare.
The GOP strategy was tested and paid off during the Virginia governor's race in which Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli lost but was able to close a double-digit lead by campaigning on the weakness and uncertainty surrounding ObamaCare.
In the House, the effort, based around dozens of votes to repeal the law, is about denying Democrats the 17-seat gain they would need to win back the majority. In the Senate, it's about gaining the six seats Republicans need to take control of that chamber.
It was announced earlier this week that Families USA, a self-proclaimed non-partisan organization, has been given a $1.1 million grant to establish a database of ObamaCare "success stories."
Families USA received the money from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on Oct. 4. The grant, which was first reported by CapitolCityProject.com, is meant to help Families USA expand the database of “real people” sharing their stories of enrolling in ObamaCare.
News of the grant has been revealed in the same week that the White House announced two more delays related to the president's landmark health care reform law.
On Wednesday, it was announced that it would delay the launch of an online portal to the health insurance marketplace for small businesses until November 2015. Officials said that the decision to delay the launch had been taken because making repairs to the federal health exchange site, Healthcare.gov took priority.
The administration also announced that the launch of a Spanish-language sign-up tool would have to be postponed.
In recent weeks, the White House has also pushed back the enrollment deadline for individuals to December 23, given businesses with more than 50 workers until 2015 to provide required health insurance without paying a penalty, and moved the deadline date for individuals to avoid penalties for failing to get coverage back for six weeks.
There was also an announced schedule change in next year's open enrollment season. It will start on Nov. 15, 2014, a month later than originally scheduled, and finish on Jan. 15, 2015, about five weeks later than originally planned.
The midterm congressional elections are Nov. 4, and congressional Republicans accused the administration of shifting the dates for political reasons, to hide any spike in 2015 premiums.
The administration had earlier announced it will allow insurance companies to extend for another year coverage under individual policies that don't meet new coverage requirements. That move was a response to anger over a wave of more than 4 million policy cancellations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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