The System Isn't Working; The Website Isn't Fixed
The Wall Street Journal
Great news: The White House says that Healthcare.gov and the 36 federally run insurance exchanges are finally good to go. The only thing missing from Sunday's relentlessly upbeat progress report was President Obama in front of a "Mission Accomplished" banner.
Sunday's eight-page report was intended to meet Mr. Obama's deadline for fixing the site after its October 1 debut was a calamity. But the more important goal was political--namely, claiming enough progress to prevent Democrats on Capitol Hill from joining the GOP demand for delaying the individual mandate to buy insurance or even the entire program.
Most Democrats are eager to believe any good news, which may explain why the Sunday report is so short on basic information. The eight pages are heavy on charts with unverifiable claims--more than 400 "cumulative software fixes"!--and the Health and Human Services Department declares that "we believe we have met the goal of having a system that will work smoothly for the vast majority of users."
This weekend miracle defies other evidence, such as the recent admission by an HHS official that 30% to 40% of the exchanges are still unfinished. Much of this involves the "back end" of the exchange operation that provides information to insurers but that consumers don't see. In a pre-Thanksgiving news dump, HHS even gave up on the federal exchanges for small business and delayed those for a year.
The truth is that the White House is defining as a "success" however well or poorly the website actually works so it can declare political victory. The millions of people who've had their old coverage cancelled must re-enroll by December 23 to avoid gaps in coverage by the New Year. So like the Keynesian multiplier for stimulus spending, the White House is revising its goals along the way and claiming success based on non-falsifiable standards.
For instance, the progress report reveals that the website is functioning more than 90% of the time--excluding periods when it is shut down for maintenance. HHS won't say how often that is or for how long. Why not simply proclaim that it works 100% of the time, as long as you don't count the times when it doesn't?
HHS touts other measures of progress--four times as much of this, doubled capacity of that--without revealing the original base. They've fixed those 400 bugs but won't say what they are or how many there are in total. Such statistical ploys are like a business claiming its revenues are twice as high as the last quarter's, in order to avoid saying if it's profitable.
Our favorite line in the report is the HHS boast that "the team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness." That sure is a remarkable two-month turnaround for the same team that took three and half years to botch the initial launch at a cost of more than $1 billion, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Government.
If this miracle fix is real, the White House will open the Obamacare black box to an independent audit, or maybe start by answering questions honestly. But on a conference call with reporters Sunday, HHS refused to say how much progress the team had made on technical problems that are seeding insurance companies with bad information about who is signing up and for what products. It knows the insurers will keep quiet lest they make themselves political targets.
The mission accomplished pose is another attempt to power through a political deadline. Americans who have now discovered the Administration's other false claims--you can keep your old plan and your doctor, and the new plans are better--can be forgiven for waiting to see the actual results.
Refer to original article for related links and important documentation.
READ FULL SOURCE ARTICLE: 12/01/2013
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