November 04, 2013

Obamacare: Is it about style more than substance? (Updated)

Update, Oct. 28: Call it a "cave-in" or whatever you will, but Obama's granted a six-week extension in sign-ups. 

Meanwhile, HHS is doubling down, and again, on the email blasts in the last day.

But, back to the original thread.

This time, that's again a rhetorical question in my header. It's time to start seriously discussing that idea.

The software for enrollment sucks.

Let me repeat that.

The software for enrollment sucks. Period. End of story.

And, we now know, as of Oct. 24, officially know, it was inadequately tested.
"Fed­eral of­fi­cials did not fully test the on­line health in­sur­ance mar­ket­place un­til two weeks be­fore it opened to the pub­lic on Oct. 1, con­trac­tors told Con­gress on Thurs­day.

While in­di­vid­ual com­po­nents of the sys­tem were test­ed ear­lier, they said, the gov­ern­ment did not con­duct “end-to-end test­ing” of the whole sys­tem from start to fin­ish un­til late Sep­tem­ber."
That, in turn, is probably because something was running behind schedule. Assuming that's the case, somebody, or multiple somebodies, are and have been lying, not just passing the buck.

(Note: States that have their own state-level exchanges aren't having problems.)

And, given separate funding for this part of Obamacare, this has nothing to with Tea Partiers, sequestration or anything else.

What was it Mike Dukakis said in 1988? Oh, yeah: "A fish rots from the head down."

We can and should blame Obama for this. Obamacare is the signature act of his presidency. (Well, since NSA's massive spying expansion isn't from a single executive order, it doesn't count.

And now, there's a possibility it will take MONTHS to fix this? and there's already talk of contractor overruns on the software, is a reasonable takeaway message that Obamacare is about style more than substance? 

Per Ars Technica, it notes that, due to the molasses-type speed of many federal projects, we should, on the other hand, marvel that the system is running at all.

Politico's piece, at the first link, might appear to support that:
Facing such intense opposition from congressional Republicans, the administration was in a bunker mentality as it built the enrollment system, one former administration official said. Officials feared that if they called on outsiders to help with the technical details of how to run a commerce website, those companies could be subpoenaed by Hill Republicans, the former aide said. So the task fell to trusted campaign tech experts.
I disagree. The fact that CGI Federal had done similar portals in Massachusetts for Romneycare meant that it should have been prepared for particular problems in the molasses minefield and pushed for better support on fixing them.

Besides, what Politico giveth, it taketh away:
Even as early as 2010, was bug-ridden, a harbinger of problems to come. But few read the tea leaves because the site had a small fraction of the traffic it would get in October 2013.

“The wheels were practically coming off the wagon at that point, which should have been a clue that anything more than this — a nicely branded site with a lot of information and not much interactivity — was going to be impossible,” the former official said.
Beyond that is the fact that, at least for public consumption, with Dear Leader's ongoing "no comment," I at least am getting the sensation there was no sense of urgency about this.

It just doesn't make sense that you wouldn't anticipate the usual federal molasses issues, estimate additional cost and time-crunch estimates, square that estimate, then add that into budgeting.

And, also, per Politico, if we had a debt ceiling drop dead day, we might have an early partial equivalent for Obamacare:
For now, the failure has mostly been a PR nightmare for the administration. But it has the potential to cascade into a crisis for real people if challenges continue too long.

Some industry officials point to Nov. 1 as a potential test for the system. That’s the day when the federal exchange is due to transfer thousands of Medicaid applications to state agencies.

“If the marketplace isn’t working well by the first part of November, I think people are going to start raising major concerns,” said Bobby Peterson, executive director of the Madison-based ABC for Health.
Stand by for news! But, to riff on Paul Harvey, maybe you should NOT stand by for Obamacare.

And, if Politico is right, between now and Nov. 1, the administration's response to actually fixing the software glitches will give us more light as to which side of my rhetorical question is right.

So, too, will the finding that more people think the glitches indicate problems with Obamacare itself than think they're just glitches.

And, Sully has now weighed in.


Updates, Oct. 24: Obama's starting to lose a few Congressional members of his own party, some of whom are talking about delaying the individual mandate. We're now up to 10 Democratic Senators wanting that delay. And now, Texas' Pete Gallego and four other House Dems are wanting more yet, including a contract clawback from CGI Federal, if warranted.

CGI Federal and other contractors for the website, software, etc., are playing the blame game. They'll continue to do so until Dear Leader knocks heads.

And, the glitches allow the GOP, especially the House side, to take shutdown-free potshots at Obamacare. (Note: I will continue to use that term for the foreseeable future; that's a "house style rule" exception to the AP style that normally guides my blogging.) In turn, that may guide larger GOP "tactics."

And, the Obamiacs are already circling the wagons. Here's Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, hitting some new level of intellectual dishonesty:
Obamacare is working.

True, that sentence comes with a large asterisk. It is working in states that have followed the essential design of the Affordable Care Act, particularly in Kentucky, Connecticut, Washington and California. The law was written with states’ rights and state responsibilities in mind. States that created their own health-care exchanges — and especially those that did this while also expanding Medicaid coverage — are providing insurance to tens of thousands of happy customers, in many cases for the first time.
He omits, at this point, that 34 states, including No. 2 in population Texas, with the highest percentage of uninsured people in the nation, and No. 3 by now Florida, don't have state-level exchanges, at least not as the primary method of offering insurance to the currently uninsured, and so are dep endent on the craptacular-to-date federal exchange. (And that Texas and Florida were particularly obstructionist.)

Dionne does admit the federal exchange is an embarrassment, before engaging in more apologetics:
Some explanations, however, are obvious. The federal government was not supposed to be running this many insurance exchanges.  
Well, really? "Wasn't supposed to?" How long ago was the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare? Ever since John Roberts said states didn't have to expand Medicaid, you knew that the federal exchange, beyond knowing even before that that most states weren't going to do state-level exchanges anyway, was going to take a big hit on workload.


Update, Oct. 28: Per Politico (yeah, I know) what if young healthy people decide that, even with any subsidy they get, it's still a lot less money to pay the tax hit for being uninsured rather than buying insurance? What if Congressional Dems get cold feet about making that tax hit actually stick? Guess Obama's projected savings are up in smoke then, aren't they? And, if we're swapping anecdotes between Dear Leader and We the Peop le, what about the more and more people who say, "No, I can't keep my old insurance because it's being discontinued, or the rates have gone up too much to afford it"? And, how long will Obamiacs try to minimize these cases?

Update, Nov. 4: Underscoring the "style" side is Team Obama's use of Twitter as a PR beatdown mechanism
"You never find an organization that is collectively this good at Twitter," said Peter LaMotte, head of digital communications practice at Levick, who advises major corporations on using social media.
The story details just how much this is true. 

No comments: