Circling the ObamaCare wagons
After weeks of embarrassing failures and an outrageous lack of transparency, the Obama Administration is finally going to brief Congress on the unfolding ObamaCare disaster. Congressional Democrats, that is. It’s a purely partisan meeting from which Republicans have been excluded, as reported by Politico:
Mike Hash, who leads the HHS Office of Health Reform, is scheduled to brief Democrats on implementation of the law at the Democrats’ weekly caucus meeting.
Upon hearing the news, Republicans requested a similar briefing with Obama administration officials.
“Far too much information about Obamacare’s rollout is being concealed from the public,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, who chided Democrats for not including 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.”
Good luck with that, Mr. Buck. Three weeks in, the Administration still refuses to level with the public about the simple matter of how many ObamaCare policies it has actually sold. “Transparency” is not a factor in their thinking.
Quite the contrary, as we see the Obama spin team circling its wagons and trying to lasso a few scapegoats. On Tuesday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) field-tested the amazing blame-it-on-the-private-sector excuse – “If anybody’s head should roll, it should be the contractors who didn’t live up to their contractual responsibilities” – which will only work if Democrats are right about how little Americans expect from the government that dominates every aspect of their lives.
To return to the iPhone launch comparison President Obama used to love making (I suspect he’ll never bring it up again), imagine we’re three weeks into a botched smartphone rollout, and an Apple executive is telling you to focus your ire on the boys in the software lab, not the top brass. Not only would the company become a laughingstock, but you’d get to see what a full-blown billion-dollar investor panic looks like.
As for “accountability,” the hot new spin from this Administration of technocratic geniuses is that President Obama had no idea his “signature achievement” was about to blow up on the launch pad. Nobody told him – he’s surrounded by yes-men and bootlickers who weren’t about to let him know that his billion-dollar rollout crashed when a few hundred people used it – and he never thought to ask, because… er, well, because he’s a lousy manager who doesn’t really care what’s going on in the titanic mega-government he wants to make bigger… no, no, wait, it’s because he was so worried about those wascally Wepubwicans that he didn’t have time to follow up on the launch of the biggest government program in generations…. yeah, that’s the ticket…
At any rate, it’s the Incompetence Defense again: the Obama Administration’s unique tactic for evading responsibility by claiming they don’t know what’s going on in the departments they are nominally “responsible” for. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who claimed for days that she didn’t have time to testify before Congress, found time to chat with CNN and deploy this amazing “defense,” which would have been part of Barack Obama’s tearful resignation speech in a better, earlier generation:
In an exclusive interview with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked when the President first learned about the considerable issues with the Obamacare website. Sebelius responded that it was in “the first couple of days” after the site went live October 1.
“But not before that?” Gupta followed up.
To which Sebelius replied, “No, sir.”
Sebelius admitted that there is concern in her department and the White House over the technical debacle surrounding the website rollout, saying “no one could be more frustrated than I am and the president.” 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.
“We’re not at all satisfied with the workings of the website,” Sebelius said. “We want it to be smooth and easy and let consumers’ compare plans.”
Looks like Sebelius wants a piece of that Incompetence Defense action, too. Nobody in charge of this disaster – not the President, and not the HHS Secretary, who is now the most powerful bureaucrat on the planet – heard about these stress-tests that showed the system collapsing under just a handful of users. Nobody knew about all the broken scripts, the empty drop-down windows, and all the other program flaws that have nothing to do with traffic load. They just threw $500 million of our tax money at a couple of no-bid contractors with good political connections and hoped everything would work fine when the switch was thrown on October 1.
Sebelius used exactly those words in her CNN interview: “We hoped that they had their A-team on the table,” she sighed… but it looks like they didn’t, so now the government will blow additional millions to bring in the A-Team, which will take a while, because B.A. doesn’t like to fly, especially when Howling Mad Murdock is in the cockpit, so they have to fake him out and tranquilize him first, but don’t worry because the plan will all come together in the end, and you know how much Hannibal loves it when that happens.
And this is their defense. This is the spin that’s supposed to minimize political damage. Here are the people who sold us a load of garbage about how the brilliant commissars of a massive super-government could manage health care better than the private sector – key word: “manage” – telling us they don’t really manage anything, they’re just hapless bystanders, President Empty Chair and Kathleen “Death Spiral” Sebelius are just as shocked and angry as you are.
Before you go lobbing accusations at the people who took your liberty and left you with a pile of 404 errors, maybe you should take a look in the mirror and behold the face of the real culprit behind ObamaCare’s failure, America. Sebelius also tried to claim, with a straight face, that the bugtastic Healthcare.gov website was always meant as a tool for “tech-savvy” people. They always figured the rest of you boobs would “want a live human being to sit and answer questions, want to talk to someone over the phone, want to talk with their friends and neighbors about what heath care providers are in the network and go back and ask some questions.”
Which explains why the phone system crashed as soon as the President told everyone to use it, I guess. Say, does anyone have a clip of Obama saying, at any point over the past five years, that only “tech-savvy” people would be using the ObamaCare website? Funny, I remember him saying the exact opposite, boasting endlessly about the smooth and pleasant experience we’d all enjoy with a website that could instantly present us with a range of insurance options. In fact, I seem to remember him touting this as a key feature of the plan.
But Obama supporters are very good at forgetting everything he said more than two days ago, so maybe they can swallow this, too. Imagine some 26-year old “child” running up from the basement to scream at Mom for daring to use Healthcare.gov in her futile effort to find a plan that covers the entire family for somewhere less than the cost of a new BMW. “Mom, don’t you know that’s only for tech-savvy people?” he’ll shriek, on the verge of rending his World of Warcraft Female Night Elf Druid T-shirt in frustration.
Presumably those tech-savvy red-pill supergeeks who are skilled enough hackers to meet Secretary Sebelius’ criteria for accessing Healthcare.gov will also be savvy enough to understand that it dispenses fraudulent information about the cost of health-care plans. You see, in their haste to duct-tape and paper-clip the system into something slightly less useless, the Most Technocratic Administration Evah hastily patched in a feature that it originally scuttled at the last minute, for entirely political reasons: the ability to browse for plans without creating a full account that can log into a thousand different government databases and compute your welfare subsides automatically. Team Obama ripped out this feature because they were scared to death of Americans finding out how much these plans actually cost, before a big chunk of it was offloaded onto the tax serfs. Now it’s back, but CBS News notes “the new shop-and-browse feature often comes with the wrong price tags.”
Industry analysts, such as Jonathan Wu, point to how the website lumps people only into two broad categories: “49 or under” and “50 or older.”
Wu said it’s “incredibly misleading for people that are trying to get a sense of what they’re paying.”
Prices for everyone in the 49-or-under group are based on what a 27-year-old would pay. In the 50-or-older group, prices are based on what a 50-year-old would pay.
CBS News ran the numbers for a 48-year-old in Charlotte, N.C., ineligible for subsidies. According to HealthCare.gov, she would pay $231 a month, but the actual plan on Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s website costs $360, more than 50 percent higher. The difference: Blue Cross and Blue Shield requests your birthday before providing more accurate estimates.
The numbers for older Americans are even more striking. A 62-year-old in Charlotte looking for the same basic plan would get a price estimate on the government website of $394. The actual price is $634.
Well, that should produce a nice wave of lawsuits. We can add them to all the suits that will fly back and forth between finger-pointing political hacks and the contractors who are about to discover why fascism isn’t really such a good deal for the State-dominated industries that tend its engines. Politico tried to get a feel for how well the Administration is prepared to deal with coming legal meltdown, and had the usual grimly amusing Orwellian experience:
At the moment, the administration is avoiding talking in public about the potential for lawsuits or attempts to seek refunds from the contractors.
White House press secretary Jay Carney referred all questions about the contracts for and costs of the project to the Department of Health and Human Services. An HHS spokeswoman, in turn, referred the questions to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. A spokeswoman there had no answers Tuesday about the costs of the project, the terms of the contracts or any efforts to limit payments for design of nonfunctioning parts of the website.
Of course, they can’t be too legally menacing toward the cronies who created this disaster – not just yet, anyway – because they still need their help to fix it. A legal expert who talked to Politico opined that the government will be on the hook for damages anyway, because the Obama Incompetence Defense doesn’t fly in courtrooms: “If problems arose because the government wasn’t able to coordinate its contractors’ work properly, the burden is the government’s to bear — the government has to pay for it.”
That sounds reasonable. Say, where does the government get its money, again…?
They’re not much good at managing anything, but this Administration is pretty good at keeping Americans in the dark about its failures. A story from Inforum says “the Administration asked North Dakota’s largest health insurer not to publicize how many people have signed up for health insurance through a new online exchange”… but they did it anyway:
During a Monday forum in Fargo for people interested in signing up for coverage via the exchange, James Nichol of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota told the crowd his company received the request from the federal government earlier Monday. Nichol is a consumer sales manager for the company.
Still, a spokeswoman from Blue Cross Blue Shield says about 14 North Dakotans have signed up for coverage since the federal exchange went live Oct. 1. That brings total statewide enrollment to 20 – less than one a day.
Add North Dakota to the list of states reporting double- or triple-digit enrollments, and you can see why the White House keeps pushing the absurd lie that its system can’t tabulate the actual number of enrollees. And not every enrollee is guaranteed to buy a policy. There’s so very much to keep quiet here. But that attitude is not conducive to either solving the technical problems of ObamaCare, or validating its central premise.
Update: The other thing Team Obama is good at: taking money from other people. The Daily Caller reports Obama is actually fundraising off the ObamaCare disaster:
“By now, you’ve probably heard that the website has not worked as smoothly as it was supposed to,” Obama told his supporters in an email sent out late Tuesday.
“That’s why I need your help,” he said, in a video pitch that links to an online fundraiser.
“The other side has already spent a whopping $400 million in anti-Obamacare TV ads,” says the language on the fundraiser site. “We don’t have to beat that, but we need to have the resources to fight back. Make a donation to support OFA today.”
[..] In the video, Obama also offers his supporters a psychological reward for joining “Team Obamacare.”
“I’m asking you to be part of Team Obamacare… I’m asking you to help tell you friends, families, coworkers, classmates, neighbors and anyone else what the Affordable Care Act can mean for them,” he said.
“Remember, nobody ever expected this would be easy — change never is… [but] I’m absolutely confident that we will finish the job of making health care in the country not just a privilege for a fortunate few, but a right for all Americans to enjoy,” he insisted.
There isn’t a tyrant, dictator, or failed politician in history who didn’t dream about having subjects gullible enough to fall for a pitch like that.
Update: There’s also a secret meeting going on between top White House aides and insurance industry executives. My oh my, but the Peoples’ Glorious Five-Year Plan certainly does seem to involve keeping a lot of secrets from The People and their representatives! Your participation in ObamaCare is mandatory under threat of legal punishment, but you are instructed to stifle your questions about it.