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Thursday Political Mix: Obamacare's Data Dump Fallout

Insurance agents in Miami, Fla. help people with information about policies that are available to them under the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 5, 2013.
Joe Raedle
Getty Images
Insurance agents in Miami, Fla. help people with information about policies that are available to them under the Affordable Care Act on Nov. 5, 2013.

Good morning, fellow political junkies.

Well, the Obama administration warned us that the enrollment numbers for the Affordable Care Act would be low and (surprise!) they were.

Still, it's one thing to get an abstract, data-free warning, another to see actual numbers, 27,000 people enrolling for private insurance through the federal portal, 106,185 overall if you throw in the states.

And those numbers are reverberating in the Obamacare debate as congressional Democrats grow increasingly anxious about the political damage they may incur as they head into a re-election year.

So we start the morning with a look at some of the more interesting pieces of news and analysis touching on politics with a straight-ahead examination of what some health care analysts think the HHS data dump portends for Obamacare.

  • Promising isn't the word that immediately comes to mind, after reading a q&a by Kaiser Health News' Jay Hancock and Phil Galewitz. Experts doubt the administration can meet its Nov. 30 deadline for having the website problems largely fixed, they report. Even Jan. 1 looks optimistic, according to one. The worry is that millions of people who analysts thought would be insured won't be, particularly the young and healthy individuals insurers need to make Obamacare viable.
  • Jonathan Cohn at the New Republic gives context to the HHS numbers. He quotes MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, one of the brains behind Massachusetts' health care law, as saying it's too early to make a judgment. Next March, when the individual mandate is scheduled to go into effect, will be a better gauge.
  • Meanwhile, it increasingly appears the Obama administration is going to open Pandora's Box, i.e., go to Congress to fix the problem of cancelled insurance policies, reports Bloomberg News' Mike Dorning. The administration has been reluctant to do that because it could open to law to what it views as all kinds of GOP mischief. But it appears it may not have any choice.
  • Who doesn't like a good peek inside a White House operation? Glenn Thrush, who writes for the new Politico magazine, pulls back the curtain on the relationship between President Obama and much of his cabinet to reveal there really isn't much of one — a relationship, that is. Despite their high status as members of such an exclusive club, it's White House insiders who drive policymaking in Obama's highly centralized operation and find numerous ways to deflate cabinet secretary egos.
  • In the wake of his disproven "You can keep it" pledge, Obama may have fewer worries on the credibility front than many observers think, writes National Journal's George Condon. How much his fellow citizens believe a president doesn't necessarily equate with how effective they think he is. Condon cites Jimmy Carter ("I will never lie to you.") and Bill Clinton ("I did not have sexual relations...) as contrasting examples to prove his point.
  • Then again, maybe the sharp drop in the percentage of Americans who say they find Obama less credible means that he is not only officially a lame duck with little hope of getting any substantial part of his second-term agenda passed, but whose legacy will be tarnished, writes Scott Wilson of the Washington Post.
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    Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.
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