The rollout of Obamacare's health insurance website has been a disaster.
Three weeks after its launch, the Internet portal that is supposed to provide one-stop shopping for millions of uninsured people in 36 states simply does not work. The debacle plays into the worst stereotypes of government incompetence and compelled President Barack Obama to hold a Rose Garden event Monday to tell health care shoppers that there also is a toll-free telephone number to use to sign up.
The failure to get the system to operate properly -- after previously delaying the law's employer mandate because it wasn't ready for prime time -- doesn't bode well for the future of the Affordable Care Act. With his signature domestic achievement in danger of imploding, Obama has to pull out all the stops to get the Web-based exchange running smoothly.
The administration has already paid private contractors, especially CGI Group, based in Canada, hundreds of millions of dollars to develop the overall execution of the site with oversight and coordination from the government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Obama acknowledged there was no excuse for the problems. But that was just damage control. Officials seem to have little clue why it's not working.
Until now, the nation's attention was focused on the government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis. With that drama in the rear view mirror, the health care exchange is now in the nation's high beams.
It would have been unreasonable to expect Obamacare to avoid some glitches at first. The health care system, and the law enacted to address its failings, are too complex for that. But what the nation has seen so far with the online exchange isn't just a new program limping out of the gate. The administration has fallen flat on its face and, so far, hasn't managed to get back up.