Democrats try blaming big business for ObamaCare faceplant

posted at 8:41 am on January 9, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Want to know who’s responsible for the disastrous rollout of ObamaCare?  Most people already know the answer to this — the people in charge — but since those are all Democrats, they have another answer. It’s not the people in charge … it’s the people that the people in charge hired, or something:

Democrats taking heat back home for Obamacare’s rocky online rollout say don’t blame them — blame Big Business.

Facing an onslaught of constituent frustration over problems with online exchanges, several Democrats have started pointing fingers at the companies and senior executives in their home states that have contracts to get the health care websites up and running.

Democrats have made a version of the argument in Washington in recent months, defending the health care law not only from Republican attacks that it’s a failure — but from the line that government itself can’t do big things.

Well, what did you expect them to say? “Hey, we’re nothing but a bunch of incompetents who couldn’t figure out two-decade-old technology”? “This is what you get when you fill an administration with people who’ve never run a business”? Both of those are the truths they want to avoid, after all.  The handy target was always going to be the subcontractors.

That attempt is most amusing in Oregon, which had its own exchange separate from the federal system, which managed to outdo Healthcare.gov in sheer incompetence. Big business failed there too, according to Sen. Jeff Merkley:

The Oregon Democrat called out software developer Oracle and its president and Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz by name in town hall meetings and to local media over the Christmas recess. He said they’re responsible for the state’s “Cover Oregon” website problems.

“We have a horrendous state software glitch,” Merkley said at a town hall in the Portland area. He also told constituents that Catz took full responsibility for the problems in a conversation he had with her.

“I called the president of Oracle. Her name is Safra Catz. She wouldn’t even let me talk for 10 minutes; she just apologized saying they’ve never had a failure like they’ve had for Oregon,” Merkley told local CBS affiliate KOIN.

First, it’s pretty amusing to watch someone try to pin the problem on a world-class success story like Oracle, which has spent the last few decades actually keeping pace with technology. Oracle’s systems power some of the biggest businesses in the world, and it’s a little doubtful that it would stumble over a web portal system that could have been built in the late 1990s with much better competence than HHS and the state of Oregon demonstrated. Besides, the prime contractor for the federal system is CGI Federal, which hasn’t performed any better, so clearly the problem is higher up.

The question here isn’t whether a contractor underperformed — even the best contractors do that. The question is why no one at HHS (and in Oregon and several other states) managed to find that out before the systems went live. Let’s not forget that HHS had forty-two months between the passage of ObamaCare and the October 1, 2013 rollout date to build, test, refine, and then launch these systems. Two months before the rollout, the HHS Inspector General blew the whistle on the lack of end-to-end testing, and more importantly on the lack of security for consumers.  Even with that warning, HHS and the Obama administration went full speed ahead, telling everyone that the system would only have minor glitches and would otherwise work fine.

Blaming contractors and subcontractors misses the point, and deliberately so. Merkley and his fellow Democrats are dodging responsibility for the incompetent management of a system that should have been easy to build, test, and implement securely — and that “big business” could have done in half the time for themselves.


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