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The WP Explanation Of The Obama-Care Roll-Out

From Forbes:

On Sept. 5 Test of Obamacare’s Website, Govt. Staffers ‘Secretly Rooted For It To Fail’

By Avik Roy | November 3, 2013

[T]he obvious question has been: if the administration knew the website wasn’t ready, why did they roll it out anyway? An explosive new report confirms that the decision was political. Some staffers were so desperate to persuade the President to change course that, during a September 5 demonstration of the healthcare.gov website, they “secretly rooted for it to fail so that perhaps the White House would wait to open the exchange until it was ready.”

This is Mr. Roy’s analysis of a Washington Post article from Saturday entitled: ‘HealthCare.gov: How political fear was pitted against technical needs.’ That article is over five web pages long, and it’s almost as impossible to follow as a typical New York Times piece.

The report comes from Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin of the Washington Post. Goldstein and Eilperin interviewed “more than two dozen current and former administration officials and outsiders who worked alongside them” to get to the bottom of why the rollout of Obamacare’s insurance exchanges has been so problematic…

One of the individuals they interviewed was Harvard’s David Cutler, who served as a senior health policy advisor to the 2008 Obama Presidential campaign. On May 11, 2010, Cutler sent a searing memo to former Harvard President Larry Summers, now serving as director of Obama’s National Economic Council, relaying his concern “that the personnel and processes you have in place are not up to the task, and that health reform will be unsuccessful as a result.”

Cutler [wrote,] “the views are widely shared, including by many members of your administration… Indeed, I have been at a conference on health reform the past two days, and have found not a single person who disagrees with the urgent need for action.”

“They were running the biggest start-up in the world,” Cutler told Goldstein and Eilperin. “And they didn’t have anyone who had run a start-up, or even run a business. It’s very had to think of a situation where the people best at getting legislation passed are best at implementing it. They are a different set of skills.”

In the 2010 memo, Cutler complained that the Department of Health and Human Services was “far behind the curve on the key long-term reform efforts.” Don Berwick, Obama’s choice to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “has never run a provider organization or insurance company, or dealt with Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement. On basic issues…Don knows relatively little.” Senior staff at CMS has “no experience running a health care organization,” Cutler said.

Cutler also criticized the person tasked with setting up the insurance exchanges, because that person was ideologically hostile to the industry. “If you cannot find a way to work with hesitant states and insurers, reform will blow up. I have seen no indication that HHS even realizes this, let alone is acting on it.” …

They ‘realized it.’ In fact, that’s exactly why Obama put that person in charge.

A running theme in the Goldstein-Eilperin piece is political paranoia, the degree to which the White House kept key details of Obamacare’s implementation secret—from its own allies—because they feared that even modest efforts at transparency would lead to criticism from Republicans. It was “a sensitivity so intense that the president’s aides ordered that some work be slowed down or remain secret for fear of feeding the opposition.”

“According to two former officials,” they write, “CMS staff members struggled at ‘multiple meetings’ during the spring of 2011 to persuade White House officials for permission to publish diagrams known as ‘concepts of operation,’ which they believed were necessary to show states what a federal exchange would look like. The two officials said the White House was reluctant because the diagrams were complex, and they feared that the Republicans might reprise a tactic from the 1990s of then Sen. Bob Dole (R., Kan.), who mockingly brandished intricate charts created by a task force led by first lady Hillary Clinton.” “In the end…the White House quashed the diagrams,” which prevented states from learning about how the administration wanted the insurance exchanges to be designed.

The administration blocked the release of key regulations until after the election, for fear of their unpopularity…

Gee, what a shock!

The White House even refused to share key information with Democratic allies in Congress. Key Congressional leaders were only notified a half-hour before the public was that President Obama was to delay the law’s employer mandate by one year…

Richard Foster, the former chief actuary at CMS, described these delays as a “singularly bad decision,” one that put “short-term political gain” ahead of the successful implementation of reform…

But the news media told us Obama only did it to help businesses and corporations.

You had the policy people, largely at the White House, pushing the deadlines and tinkering with the policy, rather than the people who had to run the critical operating path design and program the system.”

On September 5—less than a month before Oct. 1 launch date—officials from the White House went over to CMS to see a “final demonstration” of the healthcare.gov website. “Some staff members worried that it would fail right in front of the president’s aides. A few secretly rooted for it to fail so that perhaps the White House would[n’t] open the exchange until it was ready.”

But that demonstration—which didn’t incorporate several of the flawed back-end IT processes—seemed just fine. And so the White House stormed ahead, into the biggest blunder of Obama’s presidency.

The failure of the website isn’t the biggest blunder of the Obama presidency. Obama-Care is.

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, November 4th, 2013. Comments are currently closed.

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