October 25, 2013

Was It Ever Supposed to Work?

Healthcare.gov hearings convene, but failure might have been the plan.

Congress began hearings Thursday into the well-catalogued disaster that is the Healthcare.gov rollout. Testimony did not, however, include that of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who was busy doing … other things. But contractors who built the monstrosity did testify, and they cast all the blame at the feet of the Obama administration. Each contractor assured Congress that their portion of the site worked when they turned in their assignments, and that HHS is at fault for not making all the pieces work together. Buck passing is, after all, the path of least resistance.

Chief among the assertions was that Healthcare.gov was not tested until just days before its Oct. 1 launch, and it crashed after a few hundred people logged on. HHS made a drastic last-minute change requiring that consumers log in before shopping, rather than allowing anonymous “window shopping,” and then HHS gave the green light anyway after failed and inadequate testing. That change, said one contractor, “created a bottleneck that prevented the vast majority of users” from accessing the site. The primary contractor, CGI, promises major improvement by Dec. 15, but that’s two-and-a-half months after launch.

As a result of the problems, the administration, without congressional authorization, granted consumers six more weeks in 2014 to buy insurance before being penalized (or “taxed,” as SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts might argue). Some Democrats are demanding a longer delay for the individual mandate. Democrats thought it was anarchist, racist and treasonous when Republicans said the same thing just last week.

Sebelius lamented this week that the rollout couldn’t wait – not even until the website worked – because, “There are people in this country who have waited decades for affordable health care coverage.” Of course, neither the (broken) website itself nor the health coverage sold on it are affordable. One analyst puts federal spending on contractors at $1 billion, and that’s not including fixing the site. Worse, as many as 16 million Americans could lose their health plans and be forced into something more expensive. Remember when President ShamWow promised, “You can keep your plan!” Good times.

National Review’s Rich Lowry observed, “The administration clearly wanted no further delays that could give fodder to opponents of the law. Perversely, it gave them, instead, the most powerful symbol of government dysfunction of the Obama era.”

But maybe that was actually part of the plan. Healthcare.gov reportedly consists of 500 million lines of code – more than Apple’s OS X, Windows XP, Facebook, Linux and Google’s Chrome web browser … combined. That number strains credulity, but if it is, in fact, accurate, then we have to wonder if the whole thing was designed to fail. You don’t throw 500 million lines of code into a project over a matter of months and start testing a few days before launch unless it was never supposed to work to begin with. We have long argued that the goal of this administration and its allies is single-payer government health care. To go about achieving that by sabotaging their own hybrid system is beyond devious – “governing by crisis”, if you will – but it seems increasingly plausible.

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