Morning Action: Obamacare Excuses Don’t Make the Law Workable
OBAMACARE CRASHES. The flaws and glitches in the Obamacare website will not be easy to fix:
The frantic weeks before the start of Obamacare were marked by a chaotic effort in which officials failed to complete exhaustive testing of the program’s website in a push to begin signups by Oct. 1, according to people involved in the rollout.
The federal Healthcare.gov site — which has been plagued by software bugs — went live without attempts to replicate a customer’s complete experience, said a person familiar with the project who asked not to be identified to discuss what happened.
The introduction was so rushed that, as recently as last week, the exchange’s computer code contained placeholder language that programmers typically use in preliminary drafts, said Clay Johnson, a former White House presidential innovation fellow during 2012-2013.
Even if the website is eventually fixed, Obamacare can’t be fixed.
DON’T BLAME REPUBLICANS. Some leftists embarrassed by the botched up rollout of Obamacare may be trying to blame Republicans for the launch’s lack of success. A lengthy opinion piece Bloomberg piece explains why the Obamacare is such a failure and why it doesn’t make sense to blame Republicans:
Nor can you really blame the Republicans — an argument that makes sense only if you don’t examine it very closely. It starts by assuming (but never stating) that the administration passed a law that didn’t work as written, and then posits a civic duty for the opposition not to oppose laws that they oppose, but instead to help the majority party turn an unworkable law into something more to said party’s liking. This is absurd. Moreover, it’s not even a very good explanation for most of these problems. Maybe CMS turned lead contractor because they couldn’t get more funds to hire private help, but lack of funds does not explain why HHS took so long to write regulations and specifications, keeping insurers at loose ends until as late as this summer, and preventing their biggest contractor from writing code until spring. It does not explain why officials decided to launch a system that was so badly behind schedule, or to keep insisting, against all evidence, that it wasn’t broken. What explains this long train of poor decision-making is some combination of bureaucratic inertia, a desire to hide what they were doing from voters who might not like it and a terrifying insouciance about how easy it might be to build a system of this size and complexity.
PASSIVE PRESIDENCY. Politico notes that “Barack Obama risks looking like a bystander to his own presidency” yet again:
Here’s what he did to kick off the week: assemble a crowd in the Rose Garden to hear him repeat how “frustrated” he was about the many problems that plagued the launch of the Affordable Care Act’s website, promise that a “tech surge” was already on its way to set those problems right and implore people to bear with him until they see what the program can do.
Here’s what he didn’t do: explain why those problems weren’t addressed before the Oct. 1 launch, why he didn’t seem to be aware of them before they went very public, or who would be suffering the consequences for any of it. He didn’t apologize. He announced, in broad terms, who would be coming in to help. But he didn’t say anything about who would be shown the exits.
His “nobody’s madder than me” Monday echoed the kinds of statements he’s repeatedly made about problems over the last few months — “Americans are right to be angry about it, and I am angry about it” (the IRS scandal), “It’s not as if I don’t have a personal interest” (the NSA scandal), “This is not a world we should accept” (Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons). He puts himself forward as a man frustrated with what’s happened on his watch, promising change, insisting that nothing of the sort could ever happen again.
FARM BILL. A chief economist for the minority staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee recently explained the new farm bill will spend more money than previous farm bills on crop insurance:
If there is one thing to be said for the new farm bill — at whatever time it may finally be passed — it’s that it will be markedly different from predecessors, says Keith Coble.
Mainstay programs such as direct payments will be no more, while programs such as crop insurance will take on significantly more importance, he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Agricultural Economics Association at Mississippi State University.
Coble, who is Giles Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Mississippi State University, has been given the opportunity to work for several months as chief economist for the minority staff of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, which Thad Cochran, R-Miss., serves as ranking minority member.
“In both the Senate and House farm bills, traditional commodity programs are taking a big hit and crop insurance is getting a big bump up,” he says. “Spending on crop insurance surpassed spending for the commodity titles two years ago, and will be even bigger in the new legislation. Spending for conservation will be more than for the commodity titles.”
Heritage explains how costly crop insurance will be for taxpayers:
Both bills increase the cost of crop insurance, the most expensive farm program. While President Obama would cut about $12 billion over 10 years, the Senate would increase costs by about $5 billion, and the House would increase costs by about $9 billion.
The House bill would not make a single common-sense reform to crop insurance, such as imposing caps on the subsidies received by farmers or implementing a means test. The Senate bill would make only a minor reform that would reduce premium subsidies for farmers with adjusted gross income of $750,000 or more.