Well, she may claim to not know who Jonathan Gruber is, but she sure did get a copy of his talking points. Discussing Obamacare with a USA Today reporter, former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius blamed many of the law’s problems on the fact that Americans lack her sophisticated understanding of insurance:
Still, Sebelius didn’t dispute the point that many Americans don’t fully understand how health insurance and the Affordable Care Act work, including the trade-offs involved in expanding coverage.
“A lot of Americans have no idea what insurance is about,” she said. “I think the financial literacy of a lot of people, particularly people who did not have insurance coverage or whose employers chose their coverage and kind of present it to them, is very low — and that has been a sort of stunning revelation. It’s not because people hid it from folks. It’s because this is a complicated product.”
Sebelius served as insurance commissioner for the state of Kansas before epically botching the roll-out of a federal entitlement program in historic and ostentatious fashion. So, she knows a thing or two, America.
Here’s the thing about Gruber and Sebelius. They decry the stupidity of Americans who have the temerity to express displeasure with their giant, ill-conceived, and iller-implemented social and policy engineering experiment. Americans just don’t understand the trade-offs, they say. Americans just don’t understand all the good stuff they’re getting. Americans just couldn’t be trusted with the truth of what we were passing because we had to force them into what’s best for them. But Americans, as they have shown in poll after poll after poll, have seen through all of this every single step of the way. They’ve had the architects and the bureaucrats pegged from Day One, and the architects and the bureaucrats are none too happy about it.
And here’s one more thing about Gruber and Sebelius. The American people, though wise enough to spot this lemon coming off the lot, are a generous folk. They might, indeed, have warmed to the law a bit if it had been executed comptently, if the interface for exchanges was as elegant and user-friendly as, say, Obama’s campaign website, if disruption had been manageable, managed smartly, and damage minimized, they might have given Gruber and Sebelius and Obamacare yet another chance. (I would have advised against this, but the American people are more generous than I.)
Guess whose job it was to get all of that right? The architects and the bureaucrats— the people who know so much better than we do. When Sebelius says the illiteracy of Americans about complicated insurance was a “stunning revelation,” she’s projecting her own lack of preparation and perception on us. Americans knew it was a complicated product and a complex undertaking and were rightly skeptical of her ability to deliver. She, on the other hand, was stunned to find out that micromanaging an entire country’s health care might not work out as smoothly as she envisioned. She was as stunned as Obama was that this didn’t come off without a hitch (though she may have been stunned a couple weeks earlier than Obama, as she saw her project hurtling inexorably toward IT disaster). They had both told themselves and voters that the federal government could do big things, especially when run by the Cult of Competence. There is no evidence that she or Obama tried very hard or even knew how to try to ensure that it would go well.
They had one job. They didn’t do it. Who’s stupid?