This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," December 7, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: That week on the "Journal Editorial Report," the White House touts the healthcare.gov re-launch and rising enrollment numbers. Is ObamaCare on the road to recovery? We'll sort the truth from the spin.
Plus, new global education rankings once again show American students lagging. So just how worried should we be?
And China flexes its military muscle as Vice President Joe Biden visits the region. Will the U.S. stand firm with Japan as tensions rise?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Obviously, the website, when it was first launched, wasn't in tip-top shape, to say the least. But we have been 24/7 going at it. And now, for the vast majority of users, it's working. So I'm going to need you all to spread the word about how the Affordable Care Act really works, what its benefits are, what its protections are and, most importantly, how people can sign up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
That was President Obama at this week's White House Youth Summit pitching the revamped healthcare.gov websites to Millennials, a group that is crucial to the Affordable Care Act's success. The White House and congressional Democrats are touting this week's re-launch, pointing to reports of rising enrollment numbers and regrouping to sell the controversial law to a still skeptical public. So is ObamaCare on the road to recovery?
Let's ask Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Joe Rago; deputy editor, Dan Henninger; and Potomac Watch columnist, Kim Strassel.
So, Joe, has ObamaCare turned the corner here as the White House says?
JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: They'd love to make you think that. But what that did is they picked a -- they made a deliberate political decision to fix the part of the website that consumers see. But they haven't fixed the so-called back end. This is the information systems that transmit data to insurers about who's signing up for their products. It's essentially like ordering something online and never having it go to the warehouse to be delivered to you.
GIGOT: So the interface with the consumer is improved and the sign-up numbers --
RAGO: But still not back -- still not totally up to speed.
GIGOT: Well, they're pitching this 29,000 enrollment figure for the first two days of December. Is that meaningful?
RAGO: They were locking for seven million people to sign up. Even if you get 29,000 every day, you're still not going to hit that number.
KIM STRASSEL, POTOMAC WATCH COLUMNIST: House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp put out a little notice pointing out that what they, in fact, need to hit that seven million number is 100,000 people a day.
STRASSEL: So 29,000 over two days, that's 15 percent of the numbers they need to be hitting.
GIGOT: Dan, one goal the White House had here was, as Joe suggests, politically. Namely, tht they needed to stop the Democrats from -- on Capitol Hill in particular from running away from the law. This seems to have worked. That spin about how this is all fixed now. You don't hear a lot of Democratic criticism.
DAN HENNINGER, DEPUTY EDITOR: I think, in part, Paul, is because a lot of the Democrats on the Hill are not really themselves up to speed on the technology that's been applied to this system. So short term, for a week or so, yeah, they can get some quiet up on Capitol Hill.
But Obama's biggest problem is the young people, the so-called Millennials -- excuse me -- are not signing up. We just had this Harvard poll out this week which said about 57 percent of them disapprove of ObamaCare. One of the reasons is that the cost is very high. They didn't know the cost was going to be so high. But the other reason is the website is an experience that you would expect to have had back in the early 1990s, not 2013. They have something, for instance, called a queuing tool, which means, let's say, if 50,000 people are using the website, a little sign that will say, give us your e-mail address, you can't get on, and we'll call you back.
For Millennials this is laughable. And they just lose faith in the system. So I think the process of signing people up is going to lose ground over time.
GIGOT: Is it that big a problem, Joe? You're a Millennial. What do you think?
I mean, is this something your generation looks at and says, this is a bit ridiculous, given where we are technologically?
RAGO: I think so. Part of it is the technological problem but part of it is the product that they're being required by law to buy.
RAGO: They just don't like it?
RAGO: This is an overpriced product. It's very tightly regulated. It's not the kind of -- it doesn't adapt to changing circumstances. It's saying everyone should want the same thing. That's just not true.
GIGOT: What about, Kim, this White House -- much talked about White House offensive going on to sell this not only to get Millennials to enroll but to get the public to think better about it? They're going around, picking anecdotes: This person gets help because they couldn't get coverage before. This person had a pre-existing condition. This person is now on Medicaid. It's a very concerted, deliberate strategy. What's behind this?
STRASSEL: They're trying to make it -- suggest that it works. They now have the website somewhat in order at the front end so they can say, look, you can get there and you can get your thing. The problem is they've got like 10 of these examples, right? That has to be compared against the millions of people who are losing their coverage. And so what you see are -- they're rolling out all the Democrats to go and do this. Lots of people are. Rather than running, they're now forcefully coming out. You're seeing people like Mary Landrieu saying, I would vote for --
GIGOT: Senator from Louisiana, Senator.
STRASSEL: Louisiana, yeah, who is up in a tough re-election this next year. And after a month of saying, well, we need to fix this, now she's out saying, I would vote for this law again. Here's the good things that are there. So they're going to try to make this an asset.
GIGOT: What are the markers, Joe, that we should be looking for here in the coming weeks to come, whether or not this thing is actually gaining more momentum and is working like the White House says?
RAGO: One thing is that they've refused to say how severe the back end problems are. They said they've fixed the problems but they won't say how much -- how many problems there were to begin with. And so --