President signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 2010.

While Healthcare.gov had a very rocky first two months, things worked much better in December. According to the Obama administration 975,000 people selected plans on the federally run exchange this month. This brings total signup on the federal exchange to 1.1 million. When the state run exchanges are added in the total number of people selecting exchange coverage is now around 2 million.

This huge surge in signup is proof that significant technical improvements have been made to Healthcare.gov and this means that starting January 1st there will be substantial base of “Obamacare users.” In two days the law will no longer be a theoretical abstract but a real system millions of people are using. Any push to change the law or repeal it is going to need to deal with this new reality.

While the exchanges are working better they are still not working as well as planned. Enrollment is still well below the administration’s original projections.

I expect this will be the pattern that will define the Affordable Care Act for years to come. The law will kinda function but not nearly as well as planned or advertised. It will limp along. It will not completely collapse as Republican critics hope but will never work as well as Democrats claimed it would. The administration only got one large section of the law sorta working on time by delaying many other huge sections. The law also still has significant design and structural problems that no one is even seriously talking about fixing.