Half a million apply for Obamacare but just a few actually enroll

In an AP story out this morning, we learn there that "476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges."

That's great news for Obama, right? Not hardly, as Politico explains:

To get covered, people have to create the application, shop and compare health plans, find out if they qualify for a federal subsidy and how much in total they would have to pay, and then actually select and enroll in a specific health plan. Millions of people have smashed into cyber-brick walls as they try to get through the flawed computer system which must process the information supplied by the applicant and check a massive "data hub" drawing on information from several massive federal agencies.

And even when people do manage to choose a plan, insurers and industry consultants say that the federal government is having trouble transmitting accurate and consistent data about who is signing up for which health plan. That indicates the online system has problems at the back end, not just at the consumer entry point.

Some of the barriers to that first step may be abating: reporters at POLITICO and other publications found it easier to get on the site in the last few days. But when they try to get deeper into the site, they encounter blank pages or other errors.

The Associated Press, which first reported the creation of 476,000 applications Saturday, said the numbers were roughly divided between people who had managed to create accounts on the HealthCare.gov federal site, which is serving 36 states, and the state-run exchanges. Neither White House nor HHS officials would give any further details or breakdown Saturday evening.

Several of the state exchanges, such as Kentucky and Washington state, are operating fairly smoothly. Some are still having problems, but overall the state-based systems are working better than the massive federal one. The health law as written in 2010 assumed that the states would run their own exchanges, with the feds only available as a backup. But many states, mostly with GOP governors, opted out, forcing HHS to build a far more massive and extensive enrollment system than it had contemplated, and Congress rejected several requests for additional implementation funds.

The Advisory Board, a business group that tracks health industry developments, tallied up the state figures available as of Friday and found that about 192,000 people had applied, and roughly 55,000 had selected a health plan (although not all of them had paid in advance for the plan, so technically enrollment wasn't completed).

We don't know how many of those applications are duplicates as people try multiple times to apply, only to get an error message that they failed. Somehow, the software tells the insurance company that even though the website tells the consumer they were unsucccessful in applying, that potential customer is carried as if he had, thus leading to 2, 3, or even 4 different entries for the same person.

Also unknown: How many potential customers took a look at how much they were going to have to pay and headed for the hills? If someone doesn't need insurance, why should they spend 2 hours online and overpay for a product they can't use?

Who are these "applicants?" Chances are, they are mostly the sickest, the most desperate people who need  health insurance. Who else is going to go through the cyber hell of trying to navigate a ludicrously flawed website?

The AP obtained an internal White House memo that predicted a half a million sign ups by the end of October. Indications are they may have 50,000 at this point (36,000 at the end of week 2). With no sign of the system working as intended, not only are they going to fall short in October, but unless a miracle of coding is performed, it is likely that major problems will persist at least through November and perhaps the end of the year.

Obamacare is on the ropes. And the administration is helpless in stopping its meltdown.