The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Of The HealthCare.Gov Fix

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • 'WE HAVE WIDENED THE SYSTEM'S ON RAMP': Two months after the troubled launch of its signature health care initiative, the Obama administration yesterday announced that its online insurance marketplace now functions smoothly for the "vast majority" of consumers seeking to shop for and enroll in coverage, ABC's DEVIN DWYER reports. "We've doubled the system's capacity and can now support its intended volume," said Jeff Zients, the administration official overseeing repairs to the system, on a conference call with reporters. The website can handle 50,000 concurrent users and 800,000 users per day, Zients said, marking a significant improvement from October when it crashed under the weight of just several thousand visitors. The site's response time and error rate for applicants have also vastly improved, he said. "In effect, we have widened the system's on-ramp. It now has four lanes, instead of two," Zients said.
  • PLOUFFE'S PREDICTION: Former Obama senior adviser and ABC News contributor David Plouffe said on "This Week" Sunday that the Affordable Care Act will "work really well" when all states run their own health care exchanges and fully expand Medicaid - actions that may not be seen until President Obama is out of office in 2017, according to ABC's IMTIYAZ DELAWALA. "This program was designed to be implemented by the states. And in most of the states that are running their exchanges it's going quite well," Plouffe told ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS. "I think it's just a fact, and it may take until 2017 when this president leaves office, you're going to see almost every state in this country running their own exchanges eventually and expanding Medicaid. And I think it'll work really well then."
  • SIGNIFICANT PROBLEMS PERSIST: A report released by the Department of Health and Human Services notes that continues to experience unscheduled outages at least 5 percent of the time, and officials signaled that there are still concerns about slow-downs during high traffic periods, DWYER notes. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius advised consumers this weekend to visit the site at off-peak times - mornings, nights and weekends - to avoid delays and potential congestion. Insurers continue to complain about unreliable data on applicants which they receive from the site. And the administration has not yet completed building the electronic payment system that will transfer government subsidies to insurance companies to help cover the cost of plans. The new report also renews questions about the administration's management of the project and why many of the touted "fixes" weren't in place to begin with, including 24/7 "technical monitoring systems" and daily meetings about the site's progress.
  • ANALYSIS: From ABC's RICK KLEIN: "No more do-overs. The only thing that worked about the announcement that would be humming by the beginning of December is that the date was weeks off - time, surely, for a fix, assuming the problems were fixable. Now comes the big test: A crush of users, representing applicants, the curious, and no small number of journalists, will be logging on at once. It's the last best chance for the administration to at least pause the politics around the Obama health care law."


BIDEN IN ASIA AMID EAST CHINA SEA TENSION. Vice President Joseph Biden embarked for the capitals of Japan, China, and South Korea on Sunday as the three nations standoff over the new flight restrictions Beijing unilaterally imposed in the East China Sea . ABC's MATTHEW LAROTONDA notes that the trip comes eight days after Beijing announced it would require all aircraft traveling through the zone to identify itself to Chinese authorities, report its flight plan, and yield to orders from that country or else face the possibility of "defensive emergency measures." Biden is scheduled to land in Tokyo Monday and meet with the presidents and prime ministers of each Pacific power during the week-long trip to discuss the area widely recognized as international airspace. It includes tiny Ieodo Island, currently controlled by South Korea, and a set of long disputed islands administered by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan - known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. On ABC's This Week National Security Adviser Tom Donilon was asked why the U.S. should care about the islands, which are mostly uninhabited. "In this current incident, if the United States were not present, if the United States didn't take the action it is taking in terms of consulting and coordinating with our allies [...] you could see tension rising to a really dangerous level," he said.

TODAY AT THE WHITE HOUSE: With all eyes on the improved website, President Obama is mostly laying low today except for remarks this afternoon at a World AIDS Day event at the White House, according to ABC's MARY BRUCE.

GOP CONGRESSMAN ON HEALTH CARE GLITCHES: 'YOU NEVER GET A SECOND CHANCE TO MAKE A FIRST IMPRESSION.' Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma on the "This Week" powerhouse roundtable yesterday, offered a gloomy assessment for President Obama's signature healthcare law and the political consequences for the president, ABC's IMTIYAZ DELAWALA writes. "Well look, you never get a second chance to make a first impression and the first impression here was terrible. And I think it's going to be an unfolding disaster for the president," Cole said. "There's going to be some winners, there's no question about that, but there's going to be millions of losers, too. People are going to find out their rates going up, people that have insurance they like are going to be losing it. It's one of the reasons for the postponement of the business mandate," he said. "You know, the individual market is pretty tiny compared to what's yet to come. And I think as that unfolds, this thing is going to be an unmitigated political disaster for the president," Cole said.

FORMER OBAMA OFFICIAL CALLS HAMID KARZAI'S REFUSAL TO SIGN SECURITY DEAL 'RECKLESS'. On "This Week" Sunday, former Obama National Security Adviser Tom Donilon called Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a long-term security agreement with the U.S. "reckless," ABC's MARYALICE PARKS reports. "President Karzai should go ahead and sign the agreement. It has been approved by a very large assembly of leaders in Afghanistan," Donilon told GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS. "His refusal to sign it at this point is reckless," Donilon added. "Reckless in terms of Afghanistan and I think it adversely impacts our ability to plan coherently and comprehensively… At some point it becomes impossible to make those kinds of plans." The agreement would maintain a U.S. troop presence in the country after the initial December 2014 deadline for withdrawal, enabling U.S. military personnel to continue to train and assist Afghan national security forces. Despite heavy-hitting diplomacy from National Security Adviser Susan Rice who visited Kabul last week, Karzai has refused to sign the agreement, drawing criticism from both the U.S. and fellow Afghans lawmakers who support the deal. Tensions escalated this week after a drone strike reportedly killed a group of civilians, including a young Afghan boy, drawing a rebuke from Karzai who has called for the end of U.S. drone strikes in the country.

BONO LOOKS AHEAD TO AN AIDS-FREE WORLD. U2 frontman Bono, who has been a leader in the global fight against AIDS for more than a decade. sat down with ABC's George Stephanopoulos to talk about the dramatic turnaround in the battle against a virus that has killed more than 25 million worldwide since 1981, notes ABC's AMBER KWAN. Antiretroviral drugs, once unaffordable to the majority of people affected by HIV/AIDS, are now significantly more accessible. "They used to cost a fortune, you know, ten grand a year. It's down to 40 cents a day for one pill," Bono said. "I remember being in Malawi, in Lilongwe, where there was four to a bed, queuing up to be diagnosed. But the diagnosis was a death sentence because there was no treatment. They had the medication. But they couldn't give it to them. They couldn't afford it." Bono, who is co-founder of ONE and the (RED) Campaign, said a person's ability to access antiretroviral drugs was an "accident of where you live." Unequal accessibility to HIV/AIDS treatment, often exacerbated by political or corporate interests, made Bono "ready to put his life on the line" for the fight against HIV/AIDS. "It actually really was an assault on my whole idea of equality. And so the charity bit went out the window for me. It became a justice issue," he said. "We can't have these technologies, simple, cheap and be denying them to others."


"113TH CONGRESS, GOING DOWN IN HISTORY FOR ITS INACTION, HAS A CRITICAL DECEMBER TO-DO LIST," by the Washington Post's Paul Kane. "The good news for Congress as it heads into the final workdays of the year is that, for the first time in five years, there are no edge-of-the-cliff December crises threatening to bring the country to its knees. The bad news is that whatever gets done in December will still be part of a year with record-low congressional accomplishment. From the confirmation of a new Federal Reserve chairman to the expiration of dairy pricing rules, House and Senate leaders head into the final month of 2013 with a checklist that is short but critical. But even a final burst of activity would do little to change the historic arc of this calendar year under the Capitol dome. According to congressional records, there have been fewer than 60 public laws enacted in the first 11 months of this year, so below the previous low in legislative output that officials have already declared this first session of the 113th Congress the least productive ever. In 1995, when the newly empowered GOP congressional majority confronted the Clinton administration, 88 laws were enacted, the record low in the post-World War II era."


@juliannagoldman: A bit of good news for #Obamacare - Nov. saw 4x jump in federal site signups compared to Oct @BloombergNews

@keithcrc: .@juducialnetwork launches 2wk statewide 6fig TV ad campaign targeting Landrieu on judges … @ForAmerica #tcot #sgp #RS

@DavidMDrucker: Mitch McConnell's war agnst Senate Conservatives Fund & broader effort to reassert power of pragmatic conservatives: …

@nycjim: Why the #Senkaku/ #Diaoyu Islands dispute is a big deal. Smart analysis, via @nytimes

@uscapitol: The moment Statue of Freedom topped the #CapitolDome #OnThisDay 1863:

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