House Democrats voiced growing frustration and anger with the broken Obamacare enrollment site on Wednesday as administration officials tried to reassure them that HealthCare.gov will be repaired.
Democrats, who labored to get the Affordable Care Act through Congress in the first year of the Obama presidency, said they wanted the administration to share details of what’s wrong and when it will be fixed.
“It’s screwed up,” Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) said, summing up the whole situation…
White House press secretary Jay Carney says there was “no question” that the White House did not know how bad the web site’s rollout would be. “While we knew that there would be some glitches and said that we expected some problems, we did not know until the problems manifested themselves after the launch that they would be as significant as they turned out to be,” he said Wednesday.
Six voters in ten describe implementation of ObamaCare as “a joke,” and more voters than not say problems with the government’s health insurance website are so bad someone should be fired, according to a Fox News national poll.
The new poll, released Wednesday, also finds a majority continues to dislike President Obama’s signature achievement: 51 percent of voters use negative terms to describe the health care law, saying it is either “a step backward” or “disastrous.” That’s down two percentage points from 53 percent in August. On the other side, 44 percent describe ObamaCare positively, either as “wonderful” or “progress.” It was 43 percent two months ago…
Is it so bad someone should be fired? By a margin of 49-38 percent, voters agree with President Obama’s former press secretary Robert Gibbs as well as others who say the problems on the government’s website are a firing offense. Another seven percent say it’s too soon to say.
At Healthworks, a system of community health centers in Virginia, trained navigators have been able to get a few people signed up on the federal website. But navigators there have also turned to paper, says Carol Jameson, associate CEO for the clinics.
“We were going to wait until the website was up,” Jameson says. “Then, when that wasn’t happening, we decided to mail the applications in.”
The team at Community Clinic, Inc., a network of free and low-cost medical clinics, has talked with 1,300 people so far, Korrick estimated.
But not a single one has made it through the entire enrollment process online…
One woman got angry at the delays, says Apoorva Srivastata, who’s assigned to a clinic in nearby Takoma Park, Md. “She was, like, ‘I have given up hope,’” Srivastata says. “She had taken public transport to get there, and she had her kids with her. I told her not to give up and that she has time.”
[O]ne senior House Democrat who spoke with CNN following the meeting didn’t rule it out [extending the enrollment deadline].
“I’m not prepared to say that now. We’re going to have to find out,” said longtime Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, a healthcare reform patriarch, when asked about pushing back the enrollment deadline or removing the fine…
“The senator has seen the letter and supports the effort to extend the enrollment deadline,” Michael Teague, Pryor’s communications director, told CNN Wednesday afternoon.
Those politics are exactly why Obama likely couldn’t and wouldn’t get rid of Sebelius, even if he wanted to: Democrats know the people opposed to the law would never let another person who backed the law through unscathed and would instead use the confirmation hearings to relitigate the Affordable Care Act — to subpoena reams of information, chase headline-grabbing leads and, overall, do whatever they could to delay or derail it…
And not just among Republicans — the thinking in some quarters is that, despite Democratic control of the Senate, vulnerable Democrats might benefit from getting to cast a vote against Obamacare by voting against any nominee. Avoiding that vote, people familiar with the situation say, is part of why there has been eagerness to see her stay in place for a second term, despite whatever problems or desire for change existed…
“If you’re charged with bringing in one of the biggest laws we’ve had in a generation, effectively taking over 18 percent of our economy, you claim that it’s going to be on time, you’re given warnings that it isn’t, but then you do it anyway,” Ryan said. “I think some people should be held responsible.”
The flubbed rollout was a punch in the gut for the president’s allies in Democratic and progressive circles who fought for the law for years in the face of unrelenting conservatives attacks.
Now health care advocates, progressive activists and liberal writers are left to defend a broken website that they were just as blindsided to discover as the rest of the public, despite years of going to the mat for Obama’s signature achievement.
And while many groups aren’t publicly grumbling, some are left with real problems to manage…
“One thing that’s troubled by the glitches in the computer system is that the most effective way to teach people about how they’re going to get help is by showing them others who they can relate to and who are comparably situated getting enrolled,” [Ron Pollack] said. “Since we haven’t had as many people enrolled, that’s not been as effective.”
This is perhaps the biggest problem facing Obamacare and probably will haunt it long after the technical problems at HealthCare.gov are fixed. Because of all the noise and disinformation, President Obama and the Democrats don’t just own Obamacare as a political issue. They own health care. Anytime something bad happens — premiums rise, or employers change plans or pare coverage — Obamacare will be blamed, even if the new law had nothing to do with the change.
“It’s one of the most frustrating things,” says Brad Woodhouse, the former Democratic National Committee official who runs Americans United for Change. “If anybody has a problem with health care, Republicans say it has to be a problem with Obamacare.”
Does Woodhouse believe Democrats now own health care? “In some ways we probably do, which is unfair,” he said. “Nobody said Obamacare was a panacea for everything.”
Nowadays, rooting against the Democrats is tantamount to rooting against America… But it’s a fallacy that any failure has, by default, a negative consequence. Attaching a phony moral significance to the word “failure” is, as anyone who’s watched politics or witnessed what bad legislation can do, nothing more than a way to smear your opponent’s intentions. It’s a weak attempt to bully those who disagree with you into rhetorical submission.
When it comes to Obamacare, it’s likely that most failure boosters have no desire to see “hardworking, middle-class families” or, for that matter, even rich lazy families, suffer unnecessarily. When confronted by this false choice, plenty of middle-class families are, no doubt, rooting for failure, as well. If an American believes Obamacare is unhelpful, destructive or counterproductive, its failure is success…
My hope is that Obamacare– not to mention, numerous other initiatives supported by the president — fails for a whole host of reasons. And not only do I have my fingers crossed that Obamacare fails in the way that most policy fails us, but I hope it fails so hard that any residual perception among voters that any part of it was prudent policy is completely eliminated. Anything less may mean that a substantial enough block of Americans will continue to operate under the false impression that top-down technocratic control of their decisions is a good idea. And that, would be a genuine failure.