Kathleen Sebelius does not work for you
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has no intention of taking responsibility for the failure of ObamaCare and resigning, and she wants to clear up any misconceptions about who she works for. It most certainly is not you, unhappy American citizen. From Fox News:
Sebelius said “no one is getting fired” over the glitches and that her main focus is to get the website up and running.
“The majority of people calling for me to resign I would say are people who I don’t work for, and who do not want this program to work in the first place,” she said. “I have had frequent conversations with the president and I’ve committed to him that my role is to get the program up and running and we will do just that.”
What a perfect distillation of the clueless arrogance and irresponsibility of this Administration! The imperial bureaucracy serves the King alone. They view themselves as opponents of both the American citizen and their elected representatives. It doesn’t matter how badly ObamaCare fails, or how much time people are wasting in fruitless battle with its software, or how many of us receive those dreaded insurance cancellation notices in the mail. This is an exercise of force. We are often told “democracy” had its last chance to stop the disaster in November 2012. It’s too late to complain about the false promises too many people believed back then.
Help me out here: President Obama claims he’s out of the loop, an innocent bystander who had no idea what was going to happen when his “signature achievement” went live. Why, he’s as stunned and angry as the rest of us! But here’s Sebelius saying she has “frequent conversations with the President.” Well, which is it?
The official call for Sebelius’ resignation came from Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) and 33 of his Republican House colleagues:
“It’s clear that Secretary Sebelius has mismanaged the ObamaCare roll out and is in over her head. Before the train wreck is allowed to continue… before more taxpayer dollars are spent trying to fix what’s already wrong… and before the Secretary continues on her damage control tour, it’s time for the president to admit that, despite three-and-a-half years to prepare, his HHS Secretary has dropped the ball on this and needs to step down,” the letter reads.
House Oversight and Senate Health Committee investigators would like to have a word with Sebelius before she goes, because they’ve been getting the usual Obama Administration stonewall when they ask for documents pertaining to the Healthcare.gov disaster. The Washington Free Beacon quotes from a letter to Sebelius that might be followed with subpoenas if she blows off the document request any longer:
House Oversight and Government Reform chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) and Senate Health Committee ranking member Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) blasted Sebelius in a Friday letter for refusing to comply with prior document requests.
“While you [Sebelius] have refused to provide information to Congress, you have been a frequent guest on numerous news and television comedy programs subsequent to” the troubled launch of Healthcare.gov, the letter said.
Issa and Alexander requested documents relating to the construction and launch of the website, which was intended to allow insurance customers to shop for coverage through the federal Obamacare exchange, in an Oct. 10 letter. Sebelius informed them on Thursday that she would not be complying with the request.
The Republicans resubmitted their request in a Friday letter. “If you do not comply,” they warned, Issa’s committee “will be forced to consider the use of compulsory process.”
With all due respect for the gravity of the situation: zing! It seems like Sebelius follows her boss’ lead in approaching the actual duties of her office with a near-total lack of effort and engagement. She likes giving speeches and going on TV, not supervising complicated projects or asking tough questions about where every last little million dollars is going.
The Republicans’ letter also mentions that $400 to $600 million seems a bit much to pay for a website that doesn’t work, despite the repeated success of the private sector at launching such operations with far less funding and much higher traffic. It is also deemed “troubling” that Healthcare.gov “advises consumers to contact some organizations that are uncertified, and raises serious concerns about fraud and misinformation as untrained and unknowledgeable assistance personnel are apparently advising consumers about ObamaCare.”
If Secretary Sebelius is not accountable for all that, then who is? And why would the American people need to keep her in an administrative position when she’s not administering anything? As Issa and Alexander point out in their letter, either Sebelius was shockingly uninformed about the progress of the ObamaCare launch, or she’s been lying to Congress. Either way, she needs to go.
Another hard question to ask of Sebelius is why she’s willingly spread so much disinformation since the ObamaCrash began. The big news today is that the restructured IT team is supposedly confident they can get the show-stopping bugs worked out of Healthcare.gov by the end of November – a deadline that analysts outside the Administration regard with skepticism, and which would still be weeks past the November 15 threshold at which it becomes difficult for enrollment to catch up with the looming individual mandate deadline. In the course of relaying bullet points from a conference call with newly-anointed crisis manager Jeff Zients, Philip Klein of the Washington Examiner mentions these items:
— Though CMS had insisted on Thursday that the problem with bad enrollment data being sent to insurers was “isolated” (an account contradicted by insurance industry sources), Zients acknowledged it was a major issue and said it was at the top of the punch list.
— Zients said that 90 percent of users can now create an account on healthcare.gov, but only about three out of 10 can successfully complete an application.
— CMS spokeswoman Julie Bataille said that about half of the roughly 700,000 people who had completed applications, about half came through healthcare.gov, which serves residents of 36 states.
— In the face of repeated questioning from Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post, Bataille and Zients refused to name any individuals or companies involved in the “tech surge” meant to fix the problems. They claimed the individuals wanted to “keep their heads down” and focus on the task at hand.
So they’ve been lying all along about the “isolated” nature of the garbage data forwarded to insurance companies, but now the old talking point is dead, and they’re finally willing to “acknowledge it was a major issue.” Also old and busted: the silly dodge repeated constantly by Secretary Sebelius that insanely high levels of demand were choking the ObamaCare system. Everyone with a modicum of computer knowledge knew that wasn’t true, but now comes the official concession that 70 percent of the people who manage to create an account still cannot complete an application.
There’s no reason to tolerate this outrageous refusal to name the “tech surge” participants. No one connected with ObamaCare has any further expectation of secrecy, if they ever did. Complete transparency must be mandatory every step of the way. It’s ridiculous to suggest that identifying the people working to fix the mess left by the previous team can’t get their work done if their identities are known. This isn’t a national-security project.
The contractors who testified in Congressional hearings pointed stern fingers of blame at Sebelius’ agency for failing to manage the enormous project properly, as Fox News relates:
Also Thursday, the contractors who built the health care website defended their work at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and claimed the government failed to properly test the system before launch.
CGI Federal and the other contractors repeatedly claimed that overall “end-to-end” testing was the responsibility of an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, as was the decision to go live on Oct. 1. They suggested more time was needed to work out the kinks.
Some critics of ObamaCare say it’s best to leave Kathleen Sebelius where she is, as the hapless face of a rolling disaster, bombing in one media appearance after another as she drops radioactive sound bites. But there are considerations beyond politics here. There must be some general sense of accountability in government, or else you end up with… well, what we have today. Why should any big-shot bureaucrat or political appointee take their jobs seriously if they know they cannot be fired, no matter how badly they mess up?
Also, if the remaining apologists for ObamaCare are serious about saving the system, they must admit they’ve got some hard work ahead to restore public confidence in the system. It’s silly to think that confidence would be restored if the same people who supervised the disaster also running the clean-up. The people who do “want the program to work,” as Sebelius put it, should be leading the charge to see her take responsibility for what she has done, and resign.