Ezra Klein: Let’s face it, they’ve done a terrible job launching Obamacare
posted at 10:06 pm on October 10, 2013 by Mary Katharine Ham
In which one of Obamacare’s most determined cheerleaders must come to grips with its disastrous debut, on Martin Bashir’s show.
EZRA KLEIN: It will take a long time to judge it. I do want to say, because I don’t think people should beat around the bush on this. They have done a terrible job launching this law.
[JOY] REID: Glitchy site.
KLEIN: It isn’t just a glitchy site. To a first approximation, basically nobody is capable of signing up for affordable health care right now or just any health insurance, affordable or not. That is not okay. They did a bad job running a very big program to help a lot of Americans. Now three weeks from now, four weeks from now, it might all be fixed. It might all be fine, and there’s something to that, right? A stat I heard the other day which I think is a stunning one is there were more people trying to sign up for accounts at healthcare.gov in the first 24 hours than Twitter had users signing up in the last 24 months. Nevertheless, when you launch something like this, it is on you to make it work. We are now more than a week into the Affordable Care Act and most people going to that website cannot use it and cannot get insurance. The Obama administration people failed the people it was trying to help, at least thus far. They need to get that site working before we can even talk about whether it can be a success. Right now it can’t even begin.
This is the guy who rejoiced in July that delaying the employer mandate, instead of being a sign of the administration’s fundamental fumbling of implementation, was just going to make implementation more successful. To which I said, yes, and you can make running a marathon a lot more successful by only running six miles and calling it a marathon.
I asked around. Peter Orszag, who helped design Obamacare from his perch as head of the Office of Management and Budget, disagreed with Rubin. “Delaying the employer mandate makes successful implementation more likely, not less likely,” he told me…
Obamacare’s critics appear to be enjoying something of a Pyrrhic victory right now: They get to (rightly) criticize the administration for unilaterally delaying unpopular and ill-drafted elements of the law. But they seem to be assuming that the bad media coverage now can be extrapolated into bad implementation next year.
That misses the choice the White House actually made: Bad press now, and higher costs in 2014, in return for an easier roll out. Whether you think the White House is making the right policy call will depend on whether you prefer slightly lower costs to a smoother rollout. But so far as Obamacare’s implementation goes, it just got easier, not harder.
Klein in today’s clip, notably, puts the blame on the Obama administration, abandoning his earlier arguments that the GOP would be to blame for the failure of a law written and implemented entirely by Democrats, and admits it’s not just about “glitches.” This is just the beginning, folks. One of Obamacare’s chief goalpost movers— “a consistently dishonest and credulous proponent of the law”— Klein better be lifting weights in preparation for the next year.
Update: I tweeted this earlier today, but it’s worth noting what people like me were pointing out in 2012, back when we were just charlatan Obamacare haters, according to the law’s supporters. Does this sound relevant now?
The Washington Post piece assumes the federal data hub itself will work perfectly, even though it’s meant to cull an incredible amount of data and pair it with an incredibly complex set of eligibility requirements. I think even that’s an open question, but here’s the bottom line: This is a giant tech undertaking which will need to serve many localities with different needs, link existing technologies and personnel with a new, giant federal hub, and somehow make sure all of them work together to smoothly to guide consumers who have no idea what to expect in subsidies or services through a brand new web portal for health insurance. They have less than a year to accomplish this. It seems there has been no pilot program, no training, and no beta testing. This thing is ORCA on steroids.