The Thinker: Rich Galen


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The Vast Majority

Rich Galen

Monday December 2, 2013


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  • A phrase that haunted the Nixon Administration (in addition to "I am not a crook") was his claim that he was representing what he called, in a 1969 speech, the "Silent Majority."

  • A phrase that will haunt the Administration of President Obama will likely be the "Vast Majority."

  • You may have read, seen, or heard about the fact that the homepage of Obamacare - - was nowhere ready for prime time when it launched on October 1, 2013.

  • After stumbling and bumbling through an embarrassing press conference to explain how that might have happened his team came up with a date, November 30, by which it would be working smoothly.

  • When it became clear that the website would not be fixed, President Obama's Administration attempted to reset expectations.

  • In mid-November, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney set the bar at "vast majority." As in "a vast majority of people going to the website would be able to get through the process."

  • The Washington Post's Dana Milbank wrote:
    "A 'vast majority' would presumably be somewhere between a bare majority of 51 percent and an overwhelming majority of, say, 99 percent - but officials had refused to say."

  • The "vast majority" line stuck with cynics like me who continued to be unhelpful by Tweeting:
    "My bank called and said it was OK if the 'vast majority' of my checks cleared."

  • On November 18, the Post's Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin, got more precision from the Administration:
    "The Obama administration will consider the new federal insurance marketplace a success if 80 percent of users can buy health-care plans online, according to government and industry officials familiar with the project."

  • Not surprisingly, the Administration has claimed it met its goal. As the NY Times' Robert Pear put it yesterday:
    "In effect, the administration gave itself a passing grade" saying the website 'will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.'"

  • The Administration said that the website is now able to handled 50,000 simultaneous users, but Sarah Kliff, in the WashPost yesterday, wrote:
    "Medicare spokeswoman Julie Bataille told reporters yesterday that as of Dec. 1, 'we're more in the zone of 80 percent of users being able to [sign up].'"

  • No one has said how wide that "zone" is.

  • All right. I've been through this. Throw enough bodies, enough time, and enough money at a coding problem and it will be fixed.

  • People will be able to log on, buy a healthcare insurance policy and have a very high expectation that the information will be correctly forwarded to the appropriate insurance company, and they will be covered.

  • Although many are, I am not rooting for its continued failure. There are real people whose policies have really been cancelled effective December 31 and are in danger of being exposed to having no healthcare for some period of time.

  • Ironically, people who were perfectly happy with their healthcare - or at least been resigned to it - have been placed into the exact category Obamacare was supposed to eliminate: Americans without healthcare.

  • The next deadline for people whose policies have been cancelled, according to CNN, is December 15, the date by which they must have selected a new policy to be covered effective January 1, 2014.

  • According to the Kaiser Family Foundation about 15 million Americans are covered by an individual policy - about 10 percent of the number who get their insurance through an employer. (The remainder are uninsured or are on a government-supported program)

  • reported:
    A 2012 study published in "Health Affairs" found that 51% of people with individual policies - nearly 8 million Americans - receive a level of coverage, dubbed "tin," that's lower than the cheapest plan offered under the Affordable Care Act, typically known as "bronze."

  • If those two numbers correlate, then about half of the 15 million people on individual policies - or about 7.5 million - will have received cancellation notices and have until December 15 to replace their "tin" policies.

  • As of today, there are 13 days until December 15 so 577,000 people per day have to be able to buy a policy.

  • If you are married, self-employed, with a couple of kids and you were staring down the barrel of being without health insurance in under a month, you might think that the system working for a "vast majority" is not nearly a high enough standard.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to the column by Dana Milbank, to Robert Pear, and to

    Also a precious Mullfoto with the granddaughters from their visit last week.

    -- END --

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