Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gagging on the Obamacare Glitch

Six months ago, the chief digital architect of the Obamacare rollout was worried. “Let’s just make sure it’s not a third-world experience,” he warned colleagues.

It hasn’t been. It’s been worse. Yet given a malign history and a GOP dedicated to aborting the law before it breathes, how could it have turned out otherwise?

In 2009, rather than go all out on job creation, Barack Obama went all in on health care. Then, instead of asking for up-or-down votes on key provisions, he threw it into a Congressional snake pit from which a 2000-page bill emerged, larded with a sickening display of tradeoffs for constituents. (The public saw too, and thus was the Tea Party born to take over the House the next year.)

The President's mistakes did not end there. Brushing off charges of care rationing and death panels, he kept stressing the altruism of covering millions of uninsured, expecting Americans to respond with empathy rather than fear of less care for themselves.

So many miscalculations, so much political damage. When it was over, health care reform was a Phyrric victory for Democrats. Voters didn't understand most of it, didn't like what they did and were sold a bill of goods by GOP liars that Obamacare was an expensive government takeover. Even keeping children covered until 26 and barring disqualification for pre-existing conditions were lost in the shuffle as the law’s pluses.

Now, trying to understand how the rollout turned into disaster, a New York Times report concludes: “The serious technical problems threaten to obscure what some see as a nationwide demonstration of a desire for more affordable health insurance...

“The response was huge. Insurance companies report much higher traffic on their Web sites and many more callers to their phone lines than predicted.”

What would-be enrollees got, instead of information and help, were frozen computer screens and interminable telephone holds.

Such “glitches” from the most tech-savvy Administration in American history must have more meaning than “Oops!”

Was it just too much to ask Americans to penetrate a screen of opaque choices, obscured by a cloud of partisan distortions and lies? Or is what’s happened to the Obamacare rollout just another symptom of a deeper malaise that afflicts us all. Would-be Obamacare enrollees may get a technical fix for their problems, but the prognosis is not good for the body politic.


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