Adventures in Obamacare

With a background in designing and building networks for financial clients and in technology consulting for small firms, among other ventures, Megan McArdle has had an eye on the technical issues raised by the rollout of Obamacare since they first came to view. Her Bloomberg View column is the column of the day on the technical issues that are in the news. She writes:

Insurers began warning in 2012 that they were worried about these systems making their delivery dates, a concern that the Government Accountability Office echoed in June. Now we know why: The systems weren’t on track to meet their delivery dates.

This is stunning. It’s far worse than I imagined, and I am pretty cynical. The law’s supporters are engaged in some high-speed blamestorming: It’s the Republicans’ fault for not giving the law more money, or it’s the fault of Republican governors who didn’t build their exchanges, or maybe it’s one of the vendors — CGI, the firm with the largest contract, is the most favored target, but at various times, the administration has clearly been teeing up to blame Experian or Oracle. Or perhaps the fault lies in federal procurement rules, which prevented the government from getting the right kind of staff and service. A lot of that shows up in the article; there’s a long prelude about the political barriers that the administration faced. But ultimately, the litany of mistakes that the administration made overwhelms these complaints.

McArdle makes a point worth quoting about the attribution of blame to Republicans, “an argument that makes sense only if you don’t examine it very closely”:

It starts by assuming (but never stating) that the administration passed a law that didn’t work as written, and then posits a civic duty for the opposition not to oppose laws that they oppose, but instead to help the majority party turn an unworkable law into something more to said party’s liking. This is absurd. Moreover, it’s not even a very good explanation for most of these problems.

McArdle foresees the imminent failure of Obamacare and with it “a functioning market for health insurance” if the exchange issues aren’t resolved shortly (by November 1 or November 15). She writes as a friendly critic, calling for a deadline “to be set now. Otherwise the political temptation will be — as it clearly has been all along — to declare that everything’s fine and we should keep going just in case it all works out in the end.”

There won’t be any takers in the Obama administration for McArdle’s advice. No deadline will be set for the proper functioning of the portal. The Baghdad Bobs of Obamacare will continue to declare that everything is fine. If they can ride out the current issues, the destruction will commence in earnest.


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