• With: Kim Strassel, Dan Henninger, Steve Moore, Joe Rago

    MOORE: And by the way --

    GIGOT: -- as Steve -- go ahead, quickly.

    MOORE: Let me just make one quick point. When have the Democrats, when has President Obama ever put any serious entitlement reform on the table? This is the ultimate unicorn. It doesn't exist.


    GIGOT: Kim, are you as pessimistic as our two friends here?

    STRASSEL: Yeah. Look, if the president's come out and already said more revenue, that's an instant deal killer. The question is whether or not he can be made to move slightly on some of his own entitlement reform proposals he's put in his budget this year.

    GIGOT: All right, thank you, all.

    Still ahead, it's been almost three weeks now since the Affordable Care Act health care exchanges went live. So after a very rocky rollout, have things gotten any better? And who should take responsibility for the mess?



    JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Despite the glitches that we acknowledge, and that absolutely must be fixed, people are getting on and enrolling. They are finding an enormous array of options available to them that weren't available to them in the past.


    GIGOT: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney this week putting a positive spin on the problems that continue to plague healthcare.gov and the 36 federally run insurance exchanges. So three weeks in, are they any closer to fixing the glitches? And what do we know about who is enrolling?

    Wall Street Journal editorial board member, and all things ObamaCare, Joe Rago, is here with us.

    Joe, so a couple of facts on the table. How long have they had to prepare?

    JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: About three and a half years, Paul.

    GIGOT: How much have they spent?

    RAGO: More than half a billion dollars, but we don't know. The money's been drawn from various government accounts and --


    GIGOT: So we don't even know how much they've spent really?

    RAGO: That's right. Just more than a half billion dollars.

    GIGOT: More than a half billion dollars. So how serious are these problems?

    RAGO: They're pretty serious. To call this glitches is an insult to glitches. There are two major problems. One is on the consumer-facing side and --

    GIGOT: That's where you and I would go to get insurance.

    RAGO: Right, that where normal people would go to try to log on to this website. And it's really -- it's sort of a website that's supposed to be functioning like a 2013 website, and it's built using 1990s coding language, so you get all kinds of error messages, crashes, freezes and so forth.

    GIGOT: But how could that be? This is a country that gave us Google and Amazon and Apple, and the government cannot create a functioning consumer-oriented website?

    RAGO: Right.


    Well, and a lot of this is deliberate political choices. So, for example, the Health and Human Services Department didn't want people to see what the total cost of the plans would be. They only wanted them to see -- they only wanted them to see the cost, less subsidies, the net cost, what they would pay out of pocket. So it requires you to go through a very intensive registration process where you have to give them your Social Security number, income, and all the rest of it, and only then can you browse plans, see what's available.


    RAG: And that creates all kinds of technological problems behind the scenes.

    GIGOT: You mentioned two problems. What's the other one, other than the consumer-facing one?

    RAGO: The other is, it's transmitting wrong information to the insurers who are supposed to be providing the plans to consumers. So it sends inaccurate information about them. It adds them and deletes them over and over again. And the insurers get unusable information that they have to process by hand. And even then, they don't know if it's right. So it's -- you have three parties, the exchange consumers and insurers. And all of them might have different ideas about who is enrolled where.

    GIGOT: And because of the exchanges, in order to operate effectively, need enrollees, particularly young, healthy enrollees, if you can't get those people on -- if go on five times and you say, forget it, I'm not going to go on, and you might have been on the margin to begin with, you are just not going to get enough people to enroll to make these things work.

    RAGO: That's right. And we actually have no information about the 36 exchanges that the federal government is running. They've refused to release any kind of information. How many people are enrolling? What kinds of plans they're choosing. How healthy they are. HHS refuses to testify before Congress, at least so far. So it's really a black box here.

    GIGOT: Kim, political accountability for any of this? I know that that's an unheard of concept in Washington, but if anything like this happened in the private sector, the V.P. or the senior V.P. would be out on his ear. What - who's going to be held responsible?

    STRASSEL: Well, one of the problems here is because we just spent two weeks with all the headlines on government shutdown, this story has not been as great as it should have been. You're beginning to get a little bit of blowback. For instance, you had a Republican Senator this week call on HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to resign. And you're probably going to hear some more calls along those lines. At the very least, there's going to be a focus on who was actually running this technology program from within the administration. You've even got Democrats now suggesting that there are heads that should roll, so you may see some firings. But that doesn't get to the fundamental question of how you actually fix this, and that could be much harder, Paul.

    GIGOT: Forget Republicans. If I were a Democrat, I'd be furious. This is their signature program. This is supposed to be wonderful. The government gives you free insurance. It's easy. This is how modern government, modern governments can function.

    HENNINGER: Exactly, Paul. This is the P.S. (ph) to raise the stance (ph) of big government and big government is in pieces. I think you have to put responsibility on Barack Obama. This is a perfect reflection of his hubris. The president thinks, if he thinks or says something, just waves it into reality, it happens, like Tunkhannock (ph) telling the waves to recede. In this case, it is not happening. They overreached. And I think the Republicans should just point that out over and over. This is big government falling apart.

    GIGOT: And HHS isn't -- is refusing even to go to Congress and talk about it.