Obamacare's Real Existential Threat

Obamacare off cliff 02

While the media and pundits focus on the legal threats to Obamacare (which may not really be threats), there’s really a more mundane existential threat to its ever becoming a major part of our society.  It doesn’t work.  I don’t mean that it’s unworkable in a political or economic sense (although it is in both senses).  I mean that it’s flat-out not working to use it—that the crown jewel of Obamacare, healthcare.gov, is a steaming pile of web-based horse manure.

Leave it to the federal government to mismanage any sizable project.  I mean they’ve had nearly three years to build a system, with several ill-fated cratered launches, two prime contractors, and its own czar.  The site that was originally built by twelve engineers in a garage has become a clown car of dysfunction.  Every year we hear the same thing:  the site isn’t ready.

“We’re really making sure that that Web site works super well,” President Obama said at a news conference a few days ago. “We’re double- and triple-checking it.”

Super well?  Any venture capital investor would have thrown the project into the round file years ago.  It’s not like signing up for health insurance is rocket science.  They’ve managed to cut the application process from 76 screens to “just” 16; this is their major accomplishment.  The Washington Post cites evidence that the government is bracing for failure.

Other confidential [Department of Health and Human Services’ Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services] CMS documents show that federal health officials drafted contingency plans involving notices for people who have insurance through the exchanges. The notices provide important information, such as whether enrollees appear eligible for federal subsidies for the coming year.

The notices were supposed to be in consumers’ hands by Nov. 1. But by the third week of October, a document says, fewer than 1 million of 7.6 million notices were ready to be mailed or e-mailed.

November 15th is this Saturday, and nobody inside the government or its contractors can say with any certainty whether the “healthcare 2.0” launch will work.  Regardless of the Supreme Court or the Republican sweep of the elections, the simple fact of bloat, indecision and incompetence may kill Obamacare first.