Democrats set to turn on Obama if Healthcare.gov isn’t ready next week

posted at 3:41 pm on November 25, 2013 by Allahpundit

Pure, sweet, schadenfreudean goodness from Politico. See now why I think there’s a chance that those new Iran sanctions pass with veto-proof majorities?

Turns out, after three years and a half years of development plus two months of frantic triage to Healthcare.gov, Democrats are finally ready to hold the White House accountable for its giant O-Care fark-up. A little.

“The president and his team have repeatedly assured us that the system will be working by Dec. 1. That’s when I start looking at what we have to do in our oversight function to hold the administration accountable for making it work.” Rep. Bruce Braley, an Iowa Democrat who is running for an open Senate seat said Thursday, adding that he’s contemplating whether to ask the president to fire members of his staff. “I’m thinking about those options. But my biggest concern is fixing the system and making it work.”…

[A] big-city lawmaker predicted oversight hearings are “going to be ugly” come next month. “The more we find out about this implementation of the ACA, the worse it looks. The Congress did our job. We passed the ACA. It’s up to the administration to implement the law.”…

“At this point, I don’t think there is anyone that would express any confidence in the administration’s ability to right the ship,” said [a House Democratic] source, adding that members seem to be “bracing for another tidal wave when Dec. 1 comes and goes and we are still dealing with a dysfunctional website, or ‘broken computer’ as the old-timers have been calling it.”…

One Democratic House member, asked by text message whether he was worried that there didn’t seem to be a Plan B at the White House, wrote back, “Yes!!!”

What does it mean for Democrats to turn on O, apart from some angry grandstanding at the next round of congressional hearings on ObamaCare? Well, there may or may not be floor votes to extend the enrollment period or delay the mandate, depending upon how loyal Reid is feeling to Obama these days. Another piece at Politico notes a schism between congressional Democratic leaders who feel they need to protect O on the one hand and Democratic strategists and backbenchers who need to protect the party (read: themselves) next November on the other. Al Franken’s job approval stands at 51/42 and he’s running next year in a famously blue state, and even he’s erring on the side of delay. No one is safe, at least for now.

If Reid sides with rank and file and those floor votes on delay happen, that’ll raise a new dilemma for the White House. Does O sign the bill(s), knowing that giving people more time to enroll next year could make the adverse selection problem for insurers worse, or does he veto it/them on grounds that it’s too early to know if an enrollment extension is necessary and that we should avoid one if possible? As with Iran sanctions, I don’t know if a veto-proof majority is out of the question. In fact, precisely because a veto override would be a dramatic way to distance congressional Dems from Obama, some Democratic fencesitters may end up tilting in favor of the bills. Even if it’s bad policy for O-Care fans, it’s good optics for the panicky Democrats who passed it.

Speaking of the website and Democratic schadenfreude, carve out three minutes for this NYT piece from Saturday about the special blend of arrogance and incompetence that led HHS to think it could manage a project as sophisticated as the Healthcare.gov build. Here’s what House Democrats will be ostentatiously pounding the table over at the next hearings:

CGI and other contractors complained of endlessly shifting requirements and a government decision-making process so cumbersome that it took weeks to resolve elementary questions, such as determining whether users should be required to provide Social Security numbers. Some CGI software engineers ultimately walked out, saying it was impossible to produce good work under such conditions

Another sore point was the Medicare agency’s decision to use database software, from a company called MarkLogic, that managed the data differently from systems by companies like IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. CGI officials argued that it would slow work because it was too unfamiliar. Government officials disagreed, and its configuration remains a serious problem…

[HHS technology officer Henry] Chao had to consult with senior department officials and the White House, and was unable to make many decisions on his own. “Nothing was decided without a conversation there,” said one agency official involved in the project, referring to the constant White House demands for oversight. On behalf of Mr. Chao, the Medicare agency declined to comment…

A pattern of ever-shifting requirements persisted throughout the project, including the administration’s decision late last year to try to redesign the site’s appearance and content to make it more informative to consumers, according to many specialists involved. The administration also decided to reconfigure it as a national site, instead of one where each state had its own front page, after many states decided not to open their own exchanges.

Things were so far behind in late summer, per the Times, that HHS had no choice but to drop nearly 30 features that had wanted for the site — including a system to transmit subsidies for individual consumers’ policies to insurers. A predecessor at HHS warned Chao this summer that you can’t build a system like this overnight, to which Chao allegedly replied, “I know. But I cannot talk them out of it.” Anyone out there still think President Bambi was a blissfully ignorant little fawn about all this?

Repairs are being made, though. Even inveterate website critic Bob Laszewski reports that there have been improvements to the crucially important back end of the site, which routes information on applicants between insurers and the federal data hub. Roughly five percent of the information that’s being received by the industry, though, is still garbled or incomplete. If that rate isn’t reduced, the White House’s target of seven million enrollments by next April would mean … 350,000 botched applications that would need to be corrected. Somehow.


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