Quotes of the day

Following the troubled rollout of the website behind Obamacare, very few Americans said the launch is going well, according to a new poll out Tuesday.

Only 12 percent said the enrollment process on Healthcare.gov is going well, the CBS survey shows. Almost half of Americans say it isn’t and 38 percent say they can’t evaluate.


Today, we are announcing key steps the Department is taking as part of a tech surge to continue to improve the consumer experience on HealthCare.gov…

We’ve also brought in additional experts and specialists drawn from within government, our contractors, and industry, including veterans of top Silicon Valley companies. These reinforcements include a handful of Presidential Innovation Fellows. This new infusion of talent will bring a powerful array of subject matter expertise and skills, including extensive experience scaling major IT systems. This effort is being marshaled as part of a cross-functional team that is working aggressively to diagnose parts of HealthCare.gov that are experiencing problems, learn from successful states, prioritize issues, and fix them…

We will continue to keep you updated on our progress on improving HealthCare.gov.


President Barack Obama didn’t know about the problems with the Affordable Care Act’s website — despite complaints from insurance companies and the site’s crashing during a test run — until days into its now well-documented abysmal launch, the nation’s health chief told CNN on Tuesday.

In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius admitted Tuesday that there is significant concern in her department and the White House over the technical debacle surrounding the Obamacare website’s rollout. The site was supposed to make it simple for people to search and sign-up for new health care policies starting on October 1, but instead it’s been clunky and, at times, inoperable.


Mike Hash, who directs the Office of Health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, will brief House Democrats Wednesday about implementation of the Affordable Care Act…

House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office is crying foul that House Republicans aren’t included in the briefing. It is asking that the same briefing be provided to the GOP.

“Far too much information about Obamacare’s rollout is being concealed from the public,” Boehner spokesman Brendan Buck said. “All members – as well as the American people – deserve answers for this debacle. That’s why we have asked the administration to provide the same briefing to House Republicans. This snub is all the more offensive after Secretary Sebelius declined to testify at a House hearing this week. It’s time for the Obama administration to honor its promises of transparency and face some accountability.”


The that experts say the problems need to be fixed by Thanksgiving to keep the program on track. But there are already murmurings the repair project could go past December 15, the New York Times. The same story mentioned that potentially 5 million lines of computer code could need rewriting. If that’s true, it sounds like it could be the code-writing equivalent of the D-Day invasion — massive, complex and arduous.

Which is not exactly what nervous Democrats want to hear. But they’re sure to ask about it at an Obama administration for House Democrats on Obamacare’s travails scheduled for Wednesday morning. (House Republicans are requesting a similar briefing as well.)

For the congressional Democrats whose votes made the Affordable Care Act a reality and who will have to defend their support for the law in the 2014 mid-term elections, the problems with the federal website are a political nightmare.


Three lessons jump to mind. ObamaCare’s disastrous launch is not just a programmer’s bad hair day but deeply implicated in the central con of ObamaCare.

Secondly, ObamaCare did not need to be founded on misdirection and hidden taxes on the young. It actually would have been a better program and cheaper for the country if it hadn’t been.

Finally liberals hate to be told their hardball policy aim is to make more Americans dependent on government. But in a year or two thousands or millions of older, sicker ObamaCare customers may find their premiums soaring when the young and healthy didn’t show up to subsidize their care. Then what?


Time to panic? No. But it’s time to prepare to panic. It sounds like the earliest anyone is projecting fixes is sometime in the middle of November. That’s the time when it absolutely has to work — and if it doesn’t, we should panic. Maybe not “Get in the shelter, Homer!” panic, but I’d definitely think about rebalancing the 401(k) and maybe voting in some politicians who will treat this with the gravity it deserves, rather than giving Rose Garden speeches saying that everything’s basically A-OK if you don’t look at the parts that don’t work! Because make no mistake: If this piece doesn’t work, then most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act doesn’t work…

Judging from President Obama’s speech, the administration has decided to triple down on the “burn the boats” strategy pioneered by Hernan Cortes in his conquest of Mexico: Make a total commitment in the hopes that this will somehow enable you to overcome impossible odds. There was no sign of a Plan B (other than call centers), no hint that they might consider a full or partial delay if they couldn’t get the systems working on time. Presumably they think (correctly) that the longer this goes on, the harder it will be to implement a delay, because so many people will have lost their existing insurance and/or bought new policies through the exchanges. But as I pointed out last week, while the “burn the boats” strategy sometimes ends with an improbable victory, the problem is that the other way it ends is in . . . well, a death spiral.


Congress could design and federal IT regulators could enforce a new procurement law that was the epitome of agility and nimbleness, one that would allow for tiger teams of Mark Zuckerberg and Sergey Brin’s best engineers to tackle things with “Move Fast and Break Things” gusto. But such a law would be the antithesis of the modern administrative state that is a product of 20th century liberalism.

I get that progressive techies didn’t set things up that way, and left to their own devices, can produce pretty good results (see the 2012 Obama campaign). But the governing philosophy they support is at odds with the startup mentality they also embrace. For better or worse, the impulse for a bigger government that makes more health care decisions goes hand in hand with bad procurement laws administered by a unionized federal workforce bullish on routine and bearish on innovation.

This is how we get a bureaucracy that, when it comes to technology, moves slow and still breaks things.


Want to know the names of the individuals and companies leading the “tech surge” called in to fix Obamacare’s main website? If you ask “the most transparent administration in history,” you’re basically out of luck

“If these individuals work for companies that have business before the White House, business before the Congress, do you think, in the interests of transparency, it would be a good idea to list the people and their companies?” asked Ed Henry of Fox News.

“At this point, Ed, I just don’t have more information than I gave you. I would refer you to HHS,” Carney replied, referring to the Department of Health and Human Services…

The problem? An HHS press officer that Yahoo News reached by email wouldn’t comment on the record, while a question submitted via a complex form on the agency’s website never even got a reply.


“This is not a glitch. This is a national embarrassment.”


The Republican chairman of a key congressional oversight committee has asked Google, Microsoft and three other U.S. companies to provide details on their possible involvement in a “tech surge” aimed at fixing a website implementing President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.

Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, made the request in a letter to Google, Microsoft, Verizon Enterprise Solutions, Oracle and Expedia, committee spokeswoman Caitlin Carroll said…

“Despite the President’s assertion that ‘we’re well into a “tech surge”‘ neither the White House nor HHS is providing additional details about which private sector companies have been engaged or whether they are being engaged through the appropriate procurement processes,” Issa said in the letter.