The ObamaCare letdown
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius went on Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show” to peddle the Administration’s talking points, including the one they’re already starting to back away from, which is that ObamaCare was so gosh-darn popular that the government’s mighty servers melted under the traffic stampede. Stewart did not appear convinced, gong as far as saying he felt he’d been lied to. He was also puzzled about why the individual mandate should grind Americans beneath ObamaCare’s heel while the latest in a long series of special waivers is granted to employers… a question congressional Republicans have been derided as “extremists” for asking.
The editors of USA Today, generally supportive of ObamaCare until now, pronounced its launch an “inexcusable mess.” They’re silly enough to accept unique-visitor numbers from the same White House crew that claims it’ll take them a month to figure out how many people signed up, and consider this figure evidence of the program’s popularity – as if there weren’t a significant number of train-wreck spectators, idly curious people, and frustrated journalists trying to log in! – but they still castigated the Administration for turning the experience into a “nightmare” for most visitors:
Websites crashed, refused to load, or offered bizarre and incomprehensible choices. Even though the system was shut down for repairs over the weekend, Monday’s early reports continued to suggest an epic screw-up.
Why have things gone so wrong?
President Obama’s chief technology adviser, Todd Park, blames the unexpectedly large numbers of people who flocked to Healthcare.gov and state websites. “Take away the volume and it works,” he told USA TODAY’s Tim Mullaney.
That’s like saying that except for the torrential rain, it’s a really nice day. Was Park not listening to the administration’s daily weather report predicting Obamacare’s popularity?
Park said the administration expected 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users. It got 250,000. Compare that with the similarly rocky debut seven years ago of exchanges to obtain Medicare drug coverage. The Bush administration projected 20,000 simultaneous users and built capacity for 150,000.
That’s the difference between competence and incompetence.
Ouch. USA Today went on to discuss various “mistakes” made when designing the websites, and bemoan the “ammunition” Team Obama’s ineptitude would give “those who want to kill the law regardless of the broad interest in it.” This despite single-digit reports of signup from various states, peaking with a mere 16, 311 from great big California… which is supposed to have something like 7 million uninsured. That’s the kind of “broad interest” that would get junior executives sacked during panicky stockholder meetings at a private corporation, along with the IT people who plowed millions of dollars into a system that crashed completely for days under a fairly modest traffic load, to say nothing of the malfunctions that clearly have nothing to do with web traffic.
One of those little “mistakes” in ObamaCare is causing “faulty and incomplete data” to flow from the ObamaCare exchanges to insurance companies, prompting the latter to correct them by hand, according to a Bloomberg News report. A consultant said it would be time to throw some red flags if the system has not improved substantially within the next few weeks… because “some people could get to January 1, and not have coverage.”
Oh, what’s a bit of chaos and unhappiness, as long as the government gets bigger, and billions of public dollars are spent? As the stupid “so popular it melted!” excuse peddled by the likes of Secretary Sebelius dies under withering scorn from actual IT experts, a new fallback narrative is emerging: it was all the fault of those pesky contractors the Administration hired. Who are those bumbling fools, and how much of our money did Barack Obama give them? You’re not allowed to know that, as the New York Times explains:
“It’s poorly designed,” said Luke Chung, the president of a database company in Virginia who has publicly criticized the site in recent days. “People higher up are given the excuse that there are too many users. That’s a convenient excuse for the managers to pass up the chain.”
Those comments echoed similar criticism on sites across the Internet, where Web designers and developers speculated about the reasons for the ongoing problems at the Web site, healthcare.gov. One discussion on the popular Web site reddit.com was titled“How not to optimize a website.”
White House officials declined to identify the private contractors who had built the account creation function, citing a decision to keep that information private. They said the contractors had moved that part of the new system to beefed-up hardware and were busy rewriting the software code to make it more robust and efficient.
The Times decided to call the hotline number provided for people who can’t wait for the exchanges (click here for a reminder of what that memorable phone number spells out on a keypad!) Alas, the operator at the ObamaCare call center couldn’t help them… “because he, too, was ‘experiencing technical difficulties with the website.'”
Those who got past all the glitches experienced the greatest sticker shock of their lives. These people believed Obama when he promised – and he did explicitly promise, although he’s trying to walk that back today – that their insurance would grow cheaper, to the tune of over $2000 per year.
Instead, they’re seeing price increases high enough to make “big believers in the Affordable Care Act” admit, “I was laughing at [Republican House Speaker John] Beohner… until the mail came today.” The lady in question, retired teacher Cindy Vinson of San Jose, likes the President’s plan a bit less now that she realizes he’ll be pulling the money for other peoples’ health insurance out of her pocket. “Of course I want people to have health care. I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”
The Daily Caller has an amusing roundup of Twitter reactions from unhappy ObamaCare campers, including someone who just realized what the individual mandate means: “Paying a penalty for not having insurance? So we’re being punished for being healthy.”
There will be some satisfied customers too, eventually. It’s mathematically impossible to throw around loot on the scale of ObamaCare without pleasing someone. There will be enough of them to fill a photo op soon enough. Some are punished and others are rewarded, at the whim of the President and his bureaucracy, even though the punished have committed no crime. As long as the discontent of those who are forced to pay higher premiums – including a large number of employer-insured Americans who have already been socked with their ObamaCare rate hikes – and the anguish of those who have lost favored plans can be prevented from jelling into effective political resistance, the ruling class has no particular reason to worry about crashing websites and backlash from broken promises. They said whatever was necessary to lure you this far, and now they’re telling you there is no way to go back. You’ll get over your disappointment. You don’t have a choice.
Update: Here’s one of those businesses Kathleen Sebelius thinks does not exist – a small restaurant chain looking at a whopping $330,000 annual cost increase because of ObamaCare. They’re trying to put together a cooperative venture with other business owners to handle the cost, instead of cutting employee hours to escape the ObamaCare burden, as so many others have been forced to do.