Another Obamacare Success Revealed As “Urban Legend”

ProPublica reveals “How the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza Became a Mistaken Poster Boy for Obamacare.” Charles Ornstein writes,

Last week, Ryan Lizza, a Washington correspondent with the New Yorker, did what I and many other journalists have done in the past three weeks: He attempted to sign up for an account on healthcare.gov, the federal government’s health insurance marketplace site.

And like me, at least, he initially thought he had succeeded. What follows is an instructive lesson in the speed of the news cycle and how incorrect information takes on a life of its own.

What follows is a blow-by-blow account of how Lizza used Twitter to report on his attempt to wrestle an account from healthcare.gov. His early tweets got picked up as proof of success and were invoked by White House spokesman Jay Carney. But it never actually happened. After going through the steps, it never received his application.

Lizza commented:

It seems that the web site launch was such a disaster that the White House was incredibly desperate to retweet any shards of good news.

I considered deleting that tweet because after two senior White House officials retweeted it, it took off and left the false impression that my conclusion was that the site worked, which isn’t the case.

It was the Twitter equivalent of blurbing a book using the one positive line from a review that actually trashed the book.

After rehearsing his own twitter-recorded failed attempt to break into healthcare.gov, Ornstein draws the following lesson:

The moral of the story: Be careful with your first tweet. Even if you later amend it, it could take on a life of its own.

Funny, I thought their stories contained a much more important lesson about Obamacare.

So, since journalists know each other and have all been trying to make healthcare.gov work, can we safely assume that not one of them has succeeded? Wouldn’t his or her story be spread across the news if any of them had succeeded?

Or are we still stuck with only “urban legends”?