Where is the White House getting the money for ObamaCare’s “tech surge”?

posted at 6:01 pm on October 21, 2013 by Allahpundit

Sebelius told Congress this afternoon that she will indeed agree to testify about the O-Care rollout — just not this week, as she has a scheduling conflict. Here’s a question for her when she does via Byron York: How are they paying for this all-hands-on-deck salvage operation of Healthcare.gov, which even The One himself described as a “tech surge” in the Rose Garden today? I’m not asking that rhetorically, either. Appropriations can be very confusing; plenty of people watching the “defund” pageant play out assumed, I think, that a shutdown would mean choking off funding for ObamaCare until it was over. Not so, but you can understand why that mistaken impression might be had. Maybe York and I — and John Cornyn — are similarly mistaken and there’s an obvious source of funds for the “surge,” but if so, what?

Unless I missed it, neither O nor HHS has said how big the “tech surge” is. Maybe they’ve hired 200 people to come in and re-write millions of lines of code, or maybe they’ve convinced 10 highly regarded IT managers to come in and reorganize the site with the people already on staff. I can kinda sorta buy that the latter might work pro bono, for the glory of “rescuing” ObamaCare, but not the former. So if we’re talking about dozens or hundreds of new contractors, where’s that money coming from? The site already went wildly over budget earlier this year and, as York notes, the GOP has already once refused HHS any new money to implement the law, leading Sebelius to engage in an egregious shakedown of health-industry execs. Maybe those execs are paying for the “surge”; given that the insurance industry stands to be completely wrecked by a “death spiral” if the young and healthy don’t start enrolling soon, they have every incentive to scrape the money together even without Sebelius leaning on them. Or maybe it’s as simple as HHS moving already-appropriated money around to pay for this thing. If they have to cut corners on normal functions to keep their pet boondoggle from crashing on the launchpad, they’ll do it. But that gets us back to the question of how much money we’re talking about here. If they’ve already had to cover heavy cost overruns with the funds they have on hand, how much money’s left to pay for the “surge”?

Incredible though it may seem, what we’re going to see next month, I think, is Obama starting to pound the table and demand that Congress — including House Republicans — pony up however many millions he now needs for his big Healthcare.gov salvage operation. He can’t force them to do it, but he can beat on them for awhile when they refuse. Right before the shutdown, ObamaCare critic Avik Roy posted this poll noting that, when presented with a menu of possibilities for the program, a plurality of voters prefers trying to fix it to outright repeal:

I haven’t seen polling on fixing the website itself versus abandoning it or taking it down for awhile but you can imagine the same voter instinct applying to that — it just got started, it hasn’t had a chance yet, they have people who can fix it if only they had the money, blah blah blah. That still won’t move Republicans to appropriate the money, which means O’s problem in funding this boondoggle will remain unsolved for now, but it’ll give him a scapegoat if/when he’s forced to yank Healthcare.gov off the air for awhile. And you know how much he loves a scapegoat.

Here he is today announcing the “tech surge.” I simply cannot believe, given the total clusterfark potential this has for the White House, that they would choose to use Iraq war terminology in framing it for the public. Which is not to say it’s incorrect.


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