The Search for the Typical User

In his column at the Washington Post, Dana Milbank points out something that casts doubt on whether the president’s promise that will be working for “the vast majority of users” by the end of the month, the reluctance of the president or his surrogates to define what they mean by “the vast majority of users”:

A “vast majority” would presumably be somewhere between a bare majority of 51 percent and an overwhelming majority of, say, 99 percent — but officials had refused to say. My Washington Post colleagues Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin solved the mystery, reporting over the weekend that a vast majority, as defined in secret by the Obama administration, is 80 percent.

Carney, at his briefing Monday, didn’t deny the figure but did his best to qualify it with all sorts of asterisks and fine print about metrics and baskets and site stability and users’ experiences and navigators and channels and something about a continuum. Sticking closely to his written notes for the briefing, he explained that although some of the 20 percent who couldn’t get to work would have technical troubles, others might have complicated circumstances or would simply prefer to sign up on the phone, in person or even by mail.

Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press pointed out that if Amazon or Kayak couldn’t serve 20 percent of their customers, “they probably wouldn’t stay in business very long.”

“You’re looking at that statistic simplistically,” Carney informed her.

When people start parsing every thing you say, wondering what you actually mean, I think it’s an indicator of a certain lack of trust.

IMO what the Administration should be concerned about most is that rather than ensuring that the web site works for “the vast majority of users” the website developers will focus their attention on making it work for “the typical user”. Search for the typical user continues.

1 comment… add one
  • PD Shaw Link

    I have wondered if there is an analysis of the typical uninsured that the exchanges are intended to serve. A rough guess would have been lower-middle class Latinos or African-Americans in their 20s or 30s, living in California or Texas. The extent of the dislocation of the individual and small business market complicates things, making the exchanges the vehicle also for older, whiter Americans.

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