Government & Politics

ObamaCare's Third World Experience

Healthcare.gov rollout was a disaster, but the deeper problem is the law itself.

Oct. 18, 2013

Closer examination of the design and implementation of the ObamaCare enrollment website reveals a long list of mistakes that could have been avoided, but instead were compounded by politically motivated decisions made by the Obama administration. And problems likely won’t be resolved for months.

Late in the design phase of the exchanges, the Department of Health and Human Services removed fundamental elements of the site that would have allowed consumers to actually see the cost of insurance so as to reduce “rate shock.” It had become apparent even to the true believers that ObamaCare wasn’t affordable or flexible in its options. The truth would have led to reduced enrollment, so HHS opted to reject transparency for the sake of political expediency – and they still got low enrollment. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius still refuses to reveal the true number of enrollees, which private sources estimate is a paltry 20% of the government’s target for October.

The administration, fearing Republican and public criticism, opted to keep the construction and testing of the website in-house with trusted campaign tech gurus. Major decisions were made behind closed doors without oversight, like granting the no-bid contract to CGI Federal to build the site. CGI Group, the Canada-based parent company of CGI Federal, was fired by the Canadian government in 2012 for missing three years of deadlines and developing a substandard product that proved unworkable. It will now take several months of continuous patches to a half-billion-dollar website built with decade-old technology and rife with security problems just to gain basic functionality – like providing the correct information to insurers.

What was it Henry Chao, the government’s chief technical officer in charge of establishing the exchanges, said earlier this year? “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience.” So much for that.

But the problem is deeper: ObamaCare as a whole is ill-conceived and unworkable, on top of being unconstitutional – regardless of what the Supreme Court ruled.

Speaking of legal challenges, there is also a lawsuit moving its way through the courts in Oklahoma that strikes at the heart of the law. The state’s attorney general is filing suit alleging that the federal exchanges are wrongfully extending subsidies and tax credits, a power the law explicitly leaves only to the states. If the court agrees that the IRS illegally stretched the power of the government to extend subsidies and tax credits, the whole law could be undone. Wouldn’t that be a pity?

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