Adventures in Obamacare

In this series I’ve been trying to follow news and columns and editorials that report the unfolding Obamacare disaster. The disaster is just beginning, and the federal Obamacare exchange is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Today’s Wall Street Journal carries a reported editorial documenting the omertà operative inside the Obama administration with respect to the technical issues bedeviling Healthcare.gov. Kathleen Seblelius and others have clammed up.

President Obama characterized the technical issues as “a glitch” and likened Healthcare.gov to the new Apple iPhone operating system. For the record, this is what he said:

Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t. That’s not how we do things in America. We don’t actively root for failure. We get to work, we make things happen, we make them better, we keep going.

If you like your old iPhone operating system, however, Apple will let you keep it. Apple also squares with its customers about “glitches.” Obama does damage control and enforces a code of silence. Nick Gillespie dishes out the derision and catcalls. They are entirely deserved. James Taranto has more here.

Thursday the Wall Street Journal reported on a new set of technical issues: “Insurers say the federal health-care marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far, in a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified.” Avik Roy’s Forbes column is must reading on the initial problems evident in the rollout.

Yuval Levin’s NRO/Corner post works within the code of silence that is operative. His assessment summarizes conversations with five Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials and three insurance-industry insiders. Levin’s informants were promised anonymity. Even so, several additional people he approached at CMS declined to discuss the exchanges. The CMS officials who spoke with Levin are all career personnel and, I assume, protected civil servants, but “they are policy and management people, not information-technology experts.”

Levin reports that the problems that plague the federal exchanges (and some state exchanges) are much more severe and fundamental than anything his informants imagined possible: “That doesn’t mean they can’t be fixed, of course, and perhaps even fixed relatively quickly, but it means that at the very least the opening weeks (and quite possibly months) of the Obamacare exchanges will be very different from what either the administration or its critics expected.”

Levin adds: “For the people involved—for the officials in charge of running this system—this is a category 5 nightmare.” And yet: “My gut sense after listening to these insiders, for what little it’s worth, is that it’s not likely that the situation will prove to be much worse than it now seems, and it’s more likely that it will prove to be less bad than it now seems.”

There is more in Levin’s report which contributes to, and comments on, what has been reported to date and provides a good summary of the issues that others have brought to light. The whole thing should be read. For those in search of juicy morsels, however, Hot Air’s Allahpundit extracts a couple of the juiciest from Levin’s report here.

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