Obamacare: Whodunit?

by JOHN C. WOHLSTETTER October 28, 2013

Michelle, in the Oval Office with a candlestick?.....

Guess whose college chum landed the no-bid contract for the ObamaCare website software, acing out three other aspirants?

On, now to Kathleen Sebelius: Please, please--PUH-LEEZ!--keep her, Mr. President.  She is the perfect exemplar of all ObamaCare represents: pray that Sebelius KEEPS her job.  She is part Nurse Ratched (3:10), except that the nurse Louise Fletcher played in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975) was less of a control freak; and she is part Wicked Witch of the West (1:45), except that Margaret Hamilton in "The Wizard of Oz" (1939) had more charm.  Every time Sebelius opens her trap it is like chalk on the blackboard.  She is arrogant ("I don't work for the people who want me to resign!"), stupid (she does not understand what insurance is--it is intended for remote but drastic contingencies, not everyday expenses), thuggish (extorting funds from health care companies she will regulate under O-Care), condescending (forcing Catholic institutions to cover procedures they object to on religious grounds), contemptuous (flouting federal election laws by ignoring the 1939 Hatch Act prohibition against political comments at official events), and spectacularly managerially inept (including prior website roll-out fiascos).  Savor Kate McKinnon's weekend Sebelius send-up on SNL.

Also for arrogance try this TV exchange (9:20) between Fox News's Megyn Kelly and Ezekiel Emmanuel, brother of Rahm & architect of Obamacare.  One power behind everything, Valerie Jarrett, no doubt had her fingers in this, as she has in everything else consequential in the Obama playbook:

Jarrett, an old Chicago friend of both Barack and Michelle Obama, appears to exercise such extraordinary influence she is sometimes quietly referred to as "Rasputin" on Capitol Hill, a reference to the mystical monk who held sway over Russia's Czar Nicholas as he increasingly lost touch with reality during World War I.

Darrell Delamaide, a columnist for Dow Jones's MarketWatch, says that "what has baffled many observers is how Jarrett, a former cog in the Chicago political machine and a real-estate executive, can exert such influence on policy despite her lack of qualifications in national security, foreign policy, economics, legislation or any of the other myriad specialties the president needs in an adviser." 

Delamaide believes the term "vacuous cipher" that was applied to Jarrett stung so much because it could be used as a metaphor for the administration in general. He writes that what "has remained consistent about the Obama administration is that vacuity - the slow response in a crisis, the hesitant and contradictory communication, a lack of conviction and engagement amid constant political calculation." The stunning revelation that President Obama wasn't kept properly apprised of problems with Obamacare's website is just the latest example of how dysfunctional Obama World can be.

The NEW BIG NUMBER on O-Care: To date, more people have lost their health care coverage due to O-Care--in just three states (CA, FL, PA)--than the 476,000 that have started accounts (NOT actually enrolled, just begun the process) for O-Care nationwide.  In all, as many as 16 million Americans may lose their current coverage due to non-compliance with ObamaCare's mandates:

In an extensive roundup of the numbers, Forbes' Josh Archambault reveals that, upon close inspection, the number of people losing their insurance coverage in merely three states towers over that of people newly insured in all 50. He notes that over half a million Americans have received notices that they will lose their coverage in Florida, California, Philadelphia, in addition to numbers coming in from several other states. Comparatively, "only 476,000 applications have been 'filed' in an exchange."

Estimates as to what these numbers will mean for the long-term effect of the Affordable Care Act vary greatly. For one, what exactly it means for someone to have filed for insurance in an exchange-that is to say, where in the process a person counts as having already "filed" for this insurance-is still somewhat murky, with Archambault raising the possibility that some states are inflating their numbers by including applications for Medicaid. Given that many major health insurance companies have abstained from participating in the program, the potential for the number of newly insured to overtake the newly uninsured is questionable at best.

Those that support the premise of Obamacare turn to Massachusetts as evidence that the alarmingly low filing numbers will turn before a year's time. The number of filings does not, however, negate the number of Americans losing their insurance-- and those estimates from policy experts in the long term still look to outpace the newly insured. Estimates for the total number set to lose their coverage vary from 14 million to 16 million.

Many people are shocked to discover that ObamaCare socks them with a double-whammy of higher preimums and deductibles.  One point for the administration: the healthcare.gov website didn't cost $634 million, but was a $93.7 million chunk of a collection of website contracts--114 over seven years--done for HHS.

Oh, and there is more on what Silicon Valley types call "state of the art imcompetence": Team Obama's software coding mess.  One softare firm estimates that the O-Care website code has 10 to 20 times too much code--it should have been 25 to 50 million lines, instead of 500 million, and thus the site may have to be recoded from scratch.  Insiders knew a train wreck was coming back in February.  Or try the labyrinthine enrollment process, which took one applicant invited to the Rose Garden last Monday a full seven hours to complete.  It might take months to fix--that is, if the coding mess is fixable at all.  The Democrat, Anna Eshoo, who represents Silicon Valley nailed to the chair (0:48) a hapless contractor witness regarding the phony excuse that excess traffic volume caused the system to crash.

Ezra Klein's WaPo piece sums up the three main screw-ups in the O-Care roll-out: (a) website dysfunction; (b) eligibility problems caused by inaccurate computer-generated information, that can prevent applicants from receiving the health care they need; (c) insurance data problems that gum up the insurance providers.  EK notes that O-Care depends upon 2.7 million young & healthy people singing up to support the subsidies paid the old and less healthy.  These people are least tolerant of website crashes.  Eventually, if they refuse to sign up voluntarily, expect Democrats to try to force them into the program anyway, and raise more taxes on the more than ("one percent") to cover shortfalls.

Bottom Line.  Sebelius is the ultimate "keeper": She will make an ideal 2014 & 2016 poster child for not only ObamaCare, but the attitudes and tactics behind modern progressivism.

Mr. Wohlstetter is the author of "Sleepwalking With the Bomb" (Discovery Institute Press, 2012). Follow John on twitter at @JohnWohlstetter 


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