This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," October 26, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," ObamaCare web woes continue and the finger pointing begins on Capitol Hill, with even some Democrats expressing concern. Could we see a delay in the law after all?
And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on track for a big re-election win, but could the gay marriage controversy derail his 2016 presidential ambitions?
Plus, a growing rift with one of America's staunchest allies and what it means for American standing in the Middle East.
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
Well, the finger pointing began on Capitol Hill this week as healthcare.gov's lead contractors testified before Congress about the problems plaguing the website, with even Democrats voicing their frustration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ANNA ESHOO, D-CALIF.: There are thousands of websites that handle concurrent volumes far larger than what healthcare.gov were dealt with. Amazon and eBay don't crash the week before Christmas and Pro Flowers doesn't crash on Valentine's Day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Other Democrats have joined New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen's call for an extension on the deadline to enroll in the health care exchanges. Could we see a delay in the individual mandate after all?
Let's ask Wall Street Journal columnist and deputy editor, Dan Henninger; Washington columnist, Kim Strassel; and editorial board member, Joe Rago.
So, Joe, a new story came to the floor this week in addition to the website, which we want to get to, but it's this dropped coverage. Policy holders all over the country are getting notices saying that they're losing their covers. That wasn't supposed to happen here.
JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: Right. You may remember President Obama's frequent incantation, if you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan.
GIGOT: Why aren't they being able to keep their health plan?
RAGO: The current coverage right now does not comply with all sorts of Affordable Care Act mandates and regulations. You know, the essential health benefits rule, for example.
GIGOT: Which if the minimum required for coverage.
RAGO: Right. These are sort of 10 areas of coverage that all health plans must cover.
GIGOT: But people like them, presumably, or they wouldn't have them.
RAGO: Right. Exactly.
GIGOT: They wouldn't buy them now.
RAGO: A health plan like Kaiser Permanente in California dropped half their market business in the country.
RAGO: -- in the state, one of the most popular health plans, and often held up as a model of health reform. California Blue, 80 percent of their policy.
GIGOT: There are about 19 million people, as I understand it, in this individual and small-business market that is who aren't part of larger corporations, who buy on the individual market. How many of those people could lose their current coverage.
RAGO: According to a peer-reviewed study in the journal Health Affairs last year, about half of them will lose their coverage, and probably more. The health care bill included a grandfather clause that was supposed to give these people a safe harbor. When Health and Human Services Department wrote it, it was very narrow and very hard to qualify.
GIGOT: They wrote it very restrictively and that's what's tossing all these people out. This is deliberate political choice.
RAGO: Exactly. Because the entire apparatus of this bill is about political control. So when they say your health plan is inadequate, you need to get something better, something that we've approved, that's why you're seeing these cancellations right now.
GIGOT: Wow. Amazing.
Dan, let's talk about the exchanges. You followed the hearings this week. What did we learn about the development of the website to sign on?
DAN HENNINGER, COLUMNIST & DEPUTY EDITOR: Well, we developed that they're obviously not ready for primetime and they're going to bring in the A-team to try to fix it.
GIGOT: So they say.
HENNINGER: So they say.
GIGOT: What were they using the B-team, C-team, the D-team, what?
HENNINGER: They did not give these people -- this is one of the complicated software pieces architecture that anyone has ever tried to create. It's huge and complex. And it was going to be hard.
But I think there's one aspect to the failure that we need to focus on a little bit. And this is a failure and what is going to kick in is actuarial science. The insurers are telling them, we need to have this up and running by about November 1st, so that the insurance pool will include healthy people, young, healthy people who are uninsured, not just the sickest people. Because if they don't get that right, this exchange, these exchanges are going to be holy unbalanced, full of the sickest people, which will blow up the cost of this law. That, I think, is the problem that is maybe never going to get fixed if the young, healthy people pull back from ObamaCare.
GIGOT: Joe, is this just a technical or management problem in developing the website, that they didn't hire the right computer science? They could have gone to eBay or some place like that. Obviously, that's one element. But is there something larger here in terms of how they proceeded?
RAGO: You mentioned deliberate political choices earlier. That really does factor into the failure of the exchanges so far. So, for example, one thing we learned at this hearing was that HHS was acting as the general manager of the 55 contractors who were spending actually about $1 billion, we now know, on building this website.