Gibbs: This ObamaCare rollout has been “excruciatingly embarrassing”
posted at 4:11 pm on October 14, 2013 by Erika Johnsen
I’d say this just about confirms it: The rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been administrated so incredibly poorly as to render all attempts at spin-doctoring pretty much futile.
This is excruciatingly embarrassing for the White House and for the Department of Health and Human Services. This was bungled badly. This was not a server problem, like just too many people came to the website. This is a website architecture problem. Again, it’s excruciatingly embarrassing. It’s not fatal, because there are still many weeks and days to go before the enrollment period closes at the end of March. I give credit to Al Hunt in his column today, I thought he had an interesting statistic. The Massachusetts health care rollout, people came on average 18 times to the marketplace website before they signed up for insurance. This is not iTunes. I hear a great album, I’m going to go buy it, boom, I buy it, and it’s a one-time easy transaction. This is health care. It’s very involved. People are going to take their time with it, but boy, if they don’t get these glitches figured out fast, people aren’t going to come back for visits 15 through 18. I will say this. I hope they’re working day and night to get this done, and when they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people who were in charge of making sure this thing was supposed to work. We knew there were going to be some glitches, but these were glitches that go, quite frankly, way beyond the pale of what should be expected.
The former White House press secretary wasn’t the only ObamaCare fan wondering whether the administration oughtn’t look at giving some top bureaucrats the boot over this nightmare; Ezra Klein at WaPo took a turn at slamming the administration at this royally biffed opportunity this morning:
We’re now negative 14 days until the Affordable Care Act and most people still can’t purchase insurance. The magnitude of this failure is stunning. Yes, the federal health-care law is a complicated project, government IT rules are a mess, and the scrutiny has been overwhelming. But the Obama administration knew all that going in. They should’ve been able to build an online portal that works.
Early on, President Obama like to compare the launch of the Affordable Care Act to Apple launching a new product. Can you imagine how many people Steve Jobs would’ve fired by now if he’d launched a new product like this?
So is anybody going to be held accountable? Is anybody going to be fired? Will anyone new be brought in to run the cleanup effort? Does the Obama administration know what went wrong, and are therr real plans to find out?
As Gibbs notes, the White House talking point of a massive and delightfully unexpected level of traffic being the prime driver of the glitches and delays has been roundly exposed over the past couple of weeks as nothing but a convenient excuse for major flaws in the federal exchange site’s architecture — except that it sounds like one of the biggest flaws to which some critics are pointing may have in fact been pretty darn deliberate, regardless of the pending problems. The requirement that users must register for an online account before they can shop around and check out the available insurance plans may have created an immediate traffic bottleneck, but the administration probably didn’t want to afford people with the opportunity of seeing the real-world insurance prices beforehand. Why ever would that want to do that?, you might very well wonder. Avik Roy explains at Forbes, emphasis mine:
“Healthcare.gov was initially going to include an option to browse before registering,” report Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky in the Wall Street Journal. “But that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said.” Why was it delayed? “An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.” …
…Obamacare wasn’t designed to help healthy people with average incomes get health insurance. It was designed to force those people to pay more for coverage, in order to subsidize insurance for people with incomes near the poverty line, and those with chronic or costly medical conditions. …
This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.