October 21 2013
MarinStreet: Is the ACA Website Trouble Indicative of Obamacare Itself?
NEW YORK (MainStreet) — The initial implementation for the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) website for insurance exchanges is having the same success as the Titanic's maiden voyage. It is sinking fast.
The Obama administration's ineptitude streak for selecting technology solutions (think Solyndra) continues. Healthcare.gov is ineffective and costly. Glitch ridden as it was, there were warnings that it was not-ready-for prime-time months ago.
Henry Chao, the deputy chief information officer and the deputy director of the Office of Information Services (OIS) in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), expressed doubts about the website in March according to published reports. The whole tech-side of this endeavor has become a "Charlie-Foxtrot," as they used to say in the Marines.
This website imbroglio is the kind of problem an already controversial project did not need. The problems have provided grist for Obamacare's legion of critics.
"In weeks or maybe months, Americans should expect the technological problems in the health law's exchange Web site to be fixed," said Hadley Heath, senior policy analyst at the Independent Women's Forum. "What cannot be fixed, however, is the flawed design of the President's health law. The inability of Americans to access the exchange Web site is just one of the law's many, serious disappointments, including forced changes to private plans, ever increasing costs, and reduced access to health care. This immediate technological failure simply illustrates the ineptitude of government when it comes to managing what should be free and personal decisions."
On October 11, U.S. Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) called on Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to resign. He said the website debacle showed that Sebelius is grossly incompetent and that this led to the complete failure of the exchange to enroll millions of Americans in health care plans as promised.
"How long do we let this failed exchange continue to operate?" Roberts said. "From the very beginning of the bill's passage, I have said this cannot work. Just over 90 days ago in the GOP weekly radio address to the nation, I warned the American people that the exchanges were not going to be ready. In fact, I introduced legislation to end the exchanges and sunset the individual mandate if they were not ready as promised on October 1."
"Today we know, the problems with the exchanges are systematic, profound and indisputable," Roberts added. "And yet the Secretary won't shoot straight with the American people."
Roberts alluded to Sebelius's refusal to own up to Obamacare's failures when she appeared on comedian Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. Sebelius could not say how many people had successfully enrolled or why the problems in the implementation had not triggered delaying the mandate for individuals. She just continued with happy talk.
"This week, Sebelius continued wasting taxpayer dollars on advertising and promotional tours," Roberts said. "This included failed rallies at NFL stadiums and appearances on comedy shows to promote enrollment while at the same time, Americans were unable to sign up for health care plans as promised. Even Jon Stewart didn't think it was a laughing matter."
"In the absence of a full repeal of Obamacare, which is my preference, we need new leadership from top to bottom," Roberts said. "I am calling on the Secretary to resign. Everything we warned about has come to pass. We need a Secretary who can admit when enough is enough.The American people should not have to tolerate the chaos of the exchange, or the ill effects of Obamacare for one more day. They are already suffering in a terrible economy. They have higher taxes, higher premiums and great uncertainty about access to quality healthcare. We need a Secretary who realizes that."
It is doubtful that Roberts will have any impact. Although he is a member of the two committees with jurisdiction on Obamacare - he was an outspoken opponent of Obamacare, and it still passed. But it does not help that the Obama administration is so accommodating in giving critics the ammo they need.
According to Reuters, the expense to construct the Website nearly tripled to $292 million as the Obama administration kept pouring money into it. The contractor, CGI Federal in Montreal, Canada, is coming under scrutiny.
Scott Amey, from the D.C. watchdog group the Project on Government Oversight, told Reuters, "Why this went from a ceiling of $93.7 million to $292 million is hard to fathom."
Chris Jacobs, a senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation, summed it up this way.
"We think this is further evidence why the law is unworkable," Jacobs said. "The administration had three and a half years to get this to work properly, and it has failed. We should not be forcing buy health insurance through a website anyway and this may be a precursor to what happens come January."
--Written by Michael P. Tremoglie for MainStreet