As soon as this debt ceiling/shutdown drama is in our rear view mirror Republican strategists can figure out how to exploit screw up the 24/7 story they have kept off the front pages for two weeks.
“One of the Obama administration’s jobs, separate from all of the political stuff we talk about here, is to simply run things like this well, to run their signature legislative initiative well,” he continued. “On that, so far, this has been a big failure.”
And the NY Times front-paged a story Sunday that will terrify anyone rooting for a quick comeback. Politics, poor decisions, and excessive optimism may have created a website problem that cannot be solved in a timely fashion:
For the past 12 days, a system costing more than $400 million and billed as a one-stop click-and-go hub for citizens seeking health insurance has thwarted the efforts of millions to simply log in. The growing national outcry has deeply embarrassed the White House, which has refused to say how many people have enrolled through the federal exchange.
Even some supporters of the Affordable Care Act worry that the flaws in the system, if not quickly fixed, could threaten the fiscal health of the insurance initiative, which depends on throngs of customers to spread the risk and keep prices low.
“These are not glitches,” said an insurance executive who has participated in many conference calls on the federal exchange. Like many people interviewed for this article, the executive spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he did not wish to alienate the federal officials with whom he works. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous. At the end of our calls, people say, ‘It’s awful, just awful.' ”
Some problems with politics:
To avoid giving ammunition to Republicans opposed to the project, the administration put off issuing several major rules until after last November’s elections. The Republican-controlled House blocked funds. More than 30 states refused to set up their own exchanges, requiring the federal government to vastly expand its project in unexpected ways.
The stakes rose even higher when Congressional opponents forced a government shutdown in the latest fight over the health care law, which will require most Americans to have health insurance. Administration officials dug in their heels, repeatedly insisting that the project was on track despite evidence to the contrary.
Within a few weeks we may see Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding a delay to ObamaCare and Sen. Cruz insisting it proceed full speed ahead, over a cliff.
One example of the magical thinking and miserable leadership guiding this:
One highly unusual decision, reached early in the project, proved critical: the Medicare and Medicaid agency assumed the role of project quarterback, responsible for making sure each separately designed database and piece of software worked with the others, instead of assigning that task to a lead contractor.
Some people intimately involved in the project seriously doubted that the agency had the in-house capability to handle such a mammoth technical task of software engineering while simultaneously supervising 55 contractors. An internal government progress report in September 2011 identified a lack of employees “to manage the multiple activities and contractors happening concurrently” as a “major risk” to the whole project.
...By early this year, people inside and outside the federal bureaucracy were raising red flags. “We foresee a train wreck,” an insurance executive working on information technology said in a February interview. “We don’t have the I.T. specifications. The level of angst in health plans is growing by leaps and bounds. The political people in the administration do not understand how far behind they are.”
Can this be salvaged? The same people who assured us that all was well now assure us that all will soon be well, but the Times hears other voices, too:
Administration officials have said there is plenty of time to resolve the problems before the mid-December deadline to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1 and the March 31 deadline for coverage that starts later. A round-the-clock effort is under way, with the government leaning more heavily on the major contractors, including the United States subsidiary of the Montreal-based CGI Group and Booz Allen Hamilton.
One person familiar with the system’s development said that the project was now roughly 70 percent of the way toward operating properly, but that predictions varied on when the remaining 30 percent would be done. “I’ve heard as little as two weeks or as much as a couple of months,” that person said. Others warned that the fixes themselves were creating new problems, and said that the full extent of the problems might not be known because so many consumers had been stymied at the first step in the application process.
Time will tell. Just for a sense of how nasty the coverage can get, check this - the Weekly Standard got a Drudge link for this story about a relentless CNN reporter who can't get signed up:
Two Weeks Later, Reporter Still Can't Sign Up for Obamacare
The healthcare.gov website has been online for two weeks. But folks are having trouble signing up.
One person who says she's been trying for two weeks straight to sign up is CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.
Gee, her too? The NY Times story linked above included this detail:
Many users of the federal exchange were stuck at square one. A New York Times researcher, for instance, managed to register at 6 a.m. on Oct. 1. But despite more than 40 attempts over the next 11 days, she was never able to log in. Her last attempts led her to a blank screen.
I am sure we will learn that every major news outlet has a similar story to tell and will be ready to do so. Well, unless Ted Cruz kidnaps Sunny or Bo.