American Elephants

This is Not Just a “Glitch.” Failure Was Built In From The Beginning. by The Elephant's Child

When Barack Obama lights upon a statistic or a fact that he likes, he is inclined to repeat it endlessly. You don’t hear it just once, but over and over. So it was that —under the health care law that Democrats proposed, premiums for average families would fall by $2,500. That was often accompanied by a disparaging view of insurance companies and how they gouged people and were unfair. Over and over, he said it  health insurance would be more affordable and to show that he meant it he gave it a specific number. Uh huh, that worked out well.

He also promised that if you liked your present insurance pan you would not have to give it up. You would not face any changes. A new health care law would help all those people who had no access to insurance. But you didn’t need to worry about changes. And if you liked your doctor, you could keep your doctor. But I’m sure that you have heard the press challenge the president on just that issue, haven’t you? You haven’t? How odd, that’s a fairly obvious question.

ObamaCare flow chart

This graphic came out soon after the law. Anyone who saw it should have understood instantly that Democrat claims about affordability were hooey, a vernacular term that covers most government promises.

Another Obama claim was that government had to act because health care costs were spiraling out of control, and Obama has credited ObamaCare which hasn’t taken effect yet for controlling those costs. In actuality, health care costs had been trending down since 1996, as new diagnostic procedures and equipment, and new drugs success in saving lives became measurable. A lot of people have avoided expensive operations and hospital stays with better preventive care.

ObamaCare has rolled out to demonstrate that three years of effort could not turn out a workable project. The administration refers to “glitches,” but that is the height of euphemism for a total disaster. The technology portion of the Affordable Care Act went live and promptly came down with a possibly terminal disease. The administration blames it on an “unanticipated surge of Web traffic.” In a country with a population of over 300 million, a surge of interest was “not anticipated?”

Health and Human Services has had three years to develop a website. It was budgeted to cost $94 million — contractor CGI Federal built the site and demanded more money from the government as costs soared. Way more! So far, it has cost $634 million, more than it cost to build Facebook or Twitter, and it doesn’t work. Far from being something that can be fixed with a little jiggering over the weekend.

Information technology experts who examined the website at the request of the Wall Street Journal said the site appeared to be built on a sloppy software foundation. Engineers at Web-hosting company Media Temple Inc. found a glut of stray software code that served no purpose they could identify. Basic Web-efficiency techniques weren’t used, clogging the website’s plumbing. Bloomberg said that the tech people they spoke with believe flaws in system architecture are part of the problem. An independent expert in website design said there was so much traffic going between users’ computers and the server, it was as if the system was attacking itself, similar to what happens when hackers conduct a distributed denial of service. Officials are adding more servers, but the problem may be much deeper. Apparently nobody buys the government’s argument that the load was too unexpected.

In the meantime over 250,000 state and public employees in South Carolina are seeing triple-digit increases in insurance premiums. The United Food and Commercial Workers union may be on the picket line on Monday in the Seattle area with thirty-thousand workers from four major grocery chains on strike over the loss of their health-care plans. Companies say that costs have risen because of a new tax on their “Cadillac” medical plans in ObamaCare. Home Depot and Trader Joe’s have recently cut coverage for part-time workers.

Government programs always cost far more than original estimates, the only exception being the Medicare Drug Plan under George W. Bush, which came in significantly less than estimates because it included incentives to encourage use of generics. Bright ideas that were sure to save money — aren’t saving money.  They were doubly counting projected savings, they thought getting doctors and hospitals computerized would save — it hasn’t, it has been expensive and major errors are rife. Consider how often you make a typo, and that most of what is essential are numbers, where word-check doesn’t work. Medicaid expansion was supposed to help, but they just told the states to expand and offered no funding, and the Supreme court rendered Medicaid expansion optional. They even eliminated the incentive that made the drug benefit affordable.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that merely delaying ACA implementation for one year would save $36 billion.


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