After all the sturm und drang, after all the political horse trading it took to become the first administration in many decades to pass a meaningful national health care initiative, after a miraculous decision by a conservative chief justice of the United States to preserve it, after bitter, never-say-die opposition from every Republican except Robert Taft, the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare, if you will — was ready for launch.
And then they screwed it up.
HealthCare.gov, the website upon which tens of millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent to accommodate the avalanche of people wanting to sign up for affordable health care, didn’t work.
Three weeks after the dud of a launch, it still doesn’t. Not nearly well enough, anyway.
“Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed,” said President Barack Obama on Monday, adding that there is “no excuse for these problems.”
He’s right, there is no excuse. Sure, the geeks and the suits in charge of the rollout should be held accountable, but so should the president.
Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius said in an interview with CNN that Obama wasn’t informed of major problems before 19 million people visited the frustratingly inept website.
Even Obama allies are aware of what a disaster this has been.
“I … would be very, very tough on the people who are responsible to get those fixes done quickly,” said former White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod on MSNBC. “I’d be, as I’m sure they are, kicking a bunch of folks in the butt every day to make sure that what needs to be done is being done.”
There’s a phone number you can call (800-318-2596), and there are trained “navigators” at some hospitals, but we’d like to think that signup material could have been made available in paper form, like the ubiquitous tax forms we see every year.
For the health care exchanges to succeed, hundreds of thousands of “young invincibles,” healthy people between the ages of 18 and 35, must enroll. Those folks live on the Internet, and if the website problems aren’t solved soon, the Obamacare math just won’t work.
Toward that end, Obama has called in the “best and the brightest” for a “tech surge,” but right now a quick fix would appear to be almost impossible.
“The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.” That was the motto of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers during World War II, and that is the kind of attitude that must be employed if the promise of Obamacare is to be realized.
The clock is ticking.