This article was first published by The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013:
The president anticipated glitches when his key legislative centerpiece was rolled out on Tuesday, and he got them:
In the first week, the first month, the first three months, I would suspect that there will be glitches.
This is 50 states, a lot of people signing up for something. And there are going to be problems. And I guarantee you, there will be problems….
Even fawning CNN had to admit there were problems: “We tried in about 20 different states’ [exchanges]. In 12 of them we hit glitches. Sometimes it made it impossible to sign up. There were error messages….”
And then Obama had the chutzpah to compare the Obamacare roll out with the recent Apple roll out of its new operating system:
Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system and within days they found a glitch, so they fixed it.
I don’t remember anybody suggesting [that] Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t.
There’s just one tiny problem with this analogy. I don’t remember any government agent holding a gun to my head forcing me to buy an iPhone.
But the Obamacare Kool-Aid has affected others, not just Obama. HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius called the glitches a great success:
We have had a few slowdowns, a few glitches, but it’s sort of a great problem to have. It’s based on the fact that the volume has been so high.
Unspoken is the assumption that Obamacare hits on exchange websites is so high because Obamacare is so popular. Isn’t that like saying that paying income taxes must be popular because so many people file income tax returns?
The problems were rife, all across the country. The moment New York’s new healthcare website was launched at 8AM, it crashed. Seekers “were greeted with error messages … [and] the links for employers, employees and brokers also experienced periodic problems,” according to CBS News. In California an insurance broker scheduled an appointment with two of his clients to be the first in the state to sign up for Obamacare, but had to cancel the appointment when he discovered that he wasn’t “approved” to sign them up, and he couldn’t tell his clients how much they would have to pay for the insurance anyway – the premium calculation bot wasn’t working. Besides, he learned later that his customers’ applications wouldn’t be received by the insurance companies for at least a month. Aside from that, things went well.
In Washington, DC, people trying to determine if they were eligible either for Medicaid or for subsidies to purchase insurance on its exchange will have to wait. In Vermont, that state’s exchange won’t be able to accept premium payments until sometime in the middle of November. In Oregon, only a few specially selected individuals were allowed to get online as its rollout was only a “beta test” – the real rollout would be taking place later.
The administration admitted that its own website was suffering a delay in its online shopping system for small business owners, along with a delay in its Spanish-speaking site. In Colorado, its exchange, Connect for Colorado, was forced to delay certain computer functions, and applicants had to call a hotline to complete the process. In Iowa there were no certified “navigators” to take those calls. Reuters noted that these glitches showed up in 24 of the state exchanges. Maryland’s exchange was delayed for four hours, and Minnesota said it would be late in the day when it would be able to confirm its connection to the federal data base.
So much for the triumphant start. As Joel Ario, a health care consultant who used to work at the Department of Health and Human Services, said: “Nobody is going to say we’re not starting on October 1st. But in some situations you have seen a redefinition of what ‘start’ means.”
Sarah Kliff, a writer for the Washington Post who has been tracking the Obamacare launch for months, said that yesterday wasn’t really “the big day” after all – it was just the beginning of a “soft launch”:
Instead, it’s January 1st, the day that the individual mandate takes effect and any plans purchased on the [exchanges] actually kick in.
The space between October and December is viewed … as a soft launch: the time to make the new web sites live, sort out the kinks and get the sites in prime condition for the beginning of 2014.
Enrollment started on Tuesday but any insurance purchased won’t become effective until January 1. And for those who delay, they have until March 15th to make their purchases or else be faced with paying a fine – oops, a tax, not a fee.
There are some other problems, too. According to the Kaiser Foundation, more than three quarters of those without insurance didn’t even know that the launch date was October 1st. And how about this for a marketing problem: the insurance companies will have to persuade healthy young people to buy insurance they don’t want in order to offset the costs of unhealthy people pouring into the system. Here’s how the Associated Press explained it:
One of the biggest challenges to the law’s success is the ability of insurers to persuade relatively young and healthy people to buy insurance as a way to balance the costs for the sicker people who are likely to get their coverage as quickly as possible.
Previous such rollouts have hardly been successful. When Massachusetts opened its version of Obamacare in late 2006, it took a total of 18 separate interactions – web visits, emails, or phone calls – before an individual could get coverage. After 9/11, the FBI tried – for 12 years – to upgrade its computer system. It began with its Virtual Case File system which was given up for lost in 2005 after $600 million of taxpayers’ money, in favor of its Sentinel system, which finally went live last year.
The task with Obamacare is equally daunting: hooking up the national databases at the Department of the Treasury (the IRS) and the Department of Homeland Security with each of the states’ exchanges. As James Pethokoukis, a writer for the American Enterprise Institute, asked: “What could possible go wrong?”
All of these glitches may be considered in another light: they build the case for a national single-payer health care system that would do away with insurance companies and those messy and confusing state exchanges. Harry Reid, bless his statist heart, was interviewed on Las Vegas’ PBS program “Nevada Week in Review” last month, and was asked “where do we go from here?” Reid, for once, was crystal clear:
What we’ve done with Obamacare is [take] a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever.
When pressed by one of the panelists about whether that meant that Obamacare was just one more step towards a single-payer, insurance- and exchange-free health care system run entirely by the government, Reid said: “Yes, yes. Absolutely, yes.”
For totalitarians like Reid, Obama, Sebelius, and others, those glitches truly signify success after all.
The Washington Post: Reports of problems precede launch of Obamacare
Associated Press: Under fire, ‘Obamacare’ going live — with glitches
The National Review Online: Obamacare: Wrong in Practice, Wrong in Theory
Reason.com: Eight Things That Could Go Wrong With Obamacare
The Washington Post: The White House says Obamacare begins on Oct. 1. Not really.
The Las Vegas Sun: Reid says Obamacare just a step toward eventual single-payer system
Associated Press: ‘Obamacare’ exchanges start up as gov’t shuts down
Politico: Obamacare D-Day becomes a soft launch