The one, big exception is the Affordable Care Act. That is the one concrete thing President Obama has accomplished. As Joe Biden would say, that’s a “BFD,” which is why the breakdown of the Obamacare website is so inexcusable. It will be fixed, but it never should have collapsed in the first place.
Launched on Oct. 1, the same day Congress shut down the federal government, problems with the website designed for people to sign up for one of 36 state health exchanges popped up immediately. Customers had to be cleared before they could shop (just the opposite of most commercial websites). The website shut down in the middle of many searches, dropping all stored data, and forcing customers to start over from scratch. Rates were often misquoted, and inaccurate information relayed to insurance providers.
And what was the response of the Obama administration? One pitiful excuse after another. First, they declared that the problem was simply too much traffic. They didn’t expect so many people to check it out, they lamented, so they couldn’t handle the volume, which made no sense at all. How can you preach for years that millions of Americans are eager to buy health insurance — and then say you’re surprised when millions of Americans are, indeed, eager to buy health insurance?
At the same time, the White House minimized problems with the site as the kind of “glitches” every new site experiences, but which would quickly work themselves out. Except that experts soon confirmed that difficulties navigating the site stemmed from serious system failures, and not mere glitches.
Then HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius told CNN that part of the problem was that so many people going to the website were not “tech savvy.” Which may be true, but which is also why the site should have been designed as fool-proof and easy to use. Not to mention that countless “tech savvy” people reported they couldn’t find their way around the website, either.
Finally, 21 days after launch, President Obama admitted the problems were serious, expressed his anger and frustrations with the website failures and announced he was bringing in a team of the best and brightest, the so-called tech surge, to straighten out the mess. Good move.
But, one must wonder, why the best and brightest weren’t hired to design the system from the start, instead of CGI, a Canadian firm, who, according to USASpending.gov, were paid upward of $634 million — for nothing. HHS would have been better off subcontracting the whole operation out to Amazon or ProFlowers. They know how to handle traffic. They thrive on it.
It’s not all bad news. Where the federal government has floundered, state governments have soared. On my show, I’ve heard nothing but success stories from those 14 states — California, New York, Washington State, Maryland, Connecticut and others — where governors have embraced Obamacare and set up their own websites. Under Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, Kentucky leads the pack, signing up an average of 1,000 new health care patients a day. Ironically, it’s only in those states where Republican governors have rejected Obamacare that the administration has run into trouble.
Nevertheless, opponents of the Affordable Care Act are enjoying this meltdown a little too much. They love the fact that the launch is having so many problems. It just reinforces their stale old argument that the ACA should be delayed or dumped altogether. But they’re only kidding themselves. Obamacare is here to stay. It’s already helped millions of Americans. Problems with the website, which is only one part of Obamacare, will soon be fixed. By January, as many as 30 million more Americans will be able to sign up for the health care they need for themselves and their families, at bargain rates never before available.
In the meantime, this isn’t rocket science. The Obama administration should stop making lame excuses, admit they dropped the ball big time, and just get busy and fix the darned thing. Fast!
Bill Press is host of a nationally syndicated radio show.