December 10, 2013

Nobody’s This Stupid and Incompetent

What consumers can see on the Obamacare website is bad enough. The landmines that they can’t see are far worse.

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This column went up at PJ Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Sunday.

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How do you get your arms around the catastrophe known as Obamacare? Is it even possible?

At this point, I’m not sure it is. The list of individual disasters which threaten to ruin one-sixth of the U.S. economy and what has been, up until now, the best healthcare system in the world is exhaustive, and exhausting.

The examples I will identify here barely scratch the surface.

First but by no means foremost, we have the supposedly new and improved HealthCare.gov. Except it’s not, even the visible part. Stories still abound of people still failing to get in or to get through the enrollment process.

But that’s okay, because nobody with any expectation of privacy should be using the web site anyway. A well-known “white hat hacker” (i.e., one of the good guys) told CNBC and the Washington Free Beacon that its security exposure is even greater now than when the site debuted on October 1. The situation is so embarrassing that White House won’t even brief Congress, which last time I checked was supposed to oversee executive branch activities. Meanwhile, the administration’s press lapdogs won’t even mention the word “security” in their web site reviews.

What consumers can see is bad enough. What they can’t see is far worse.

The transmission of enrollment data from HealthCare.gov to participating insurance companies is so botched that “up to 30 percent of the people who have enrolled on healthcare.gov only think they have enrolled.” Starting on January 1, barring some kind of miracle, those affected who go to their doctors are “going to find out the hard way that their attempted enrollment failed and they don’t actually have coverage.”

Then there’s the fact that “The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has not yet finished building the part of the website that would transfer billions of dollars in subsidies for plan premiums and cost-sharing payments to insurance companies.” That characterization made by Reuters is far too kind. On November 19, Henry Chao, CMS’s deputy chief information officer Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told a House committee that “the payment systems, they still need be built.” At best, that would mean they’ve hardly started.

The “fix” for this complete lack of a system is something out of fairyland, and dumps a huge, unplanned workload on participating insurance companies:

Health plans will estimate how much they are owed, and submit that estimate to the government. Once the system is built, the government and insurers can reconcile the payments made with the plan data to “true up” payments …

Imagine the hours upon hours of bickering we’ll see between government bureaucrats and insurance company officials before, or if, this gets resolved. No one can possibly believe that the Obama administration won’t capitalize on this new opportunity to bully the industry it loves to hate. (Aside: I wonder how the folks in the insurance business who salivated over “all those new customers” they would gain feel about being in bed with Team Obama now?)

Months ago, we learned to HealthCare.gov enrollees will be on the “honor system” in submitting their personal and income data. Now we discover that the Internal Revenue Service, which is supposed to at least apply a sniff test to what users submit, “doesn’t have the system to check what your income is, to see what subsidies you are eligible for,” potentially opening the system up to massive fraud. Anyone who believes it can’t happen isn’t aware of the IRS’s multibillion-dollar failure to stop illegal aliens from taking bogus chid-care credits.

President Barack Obama has done very little to ensure that his “signature achievement” would get off the ground successfully. How little? Try “almost nothing.” According to a study by the Government Accountability Institute, the President only met with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius one time since the Affordable Care Act became law. That was way back on April 21, 2010 — and even that was a joint meeting with then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Meanwhile, this non-working clunker’s waste, likely fraud, and cronyism will almost certainly send its cost over the $1 billion mark — all for a site which some IT experts claim should have cost less than $10 million.

Obamacare’s damage is already spreading to the rest of the economy. Large company CEOs are saying that the uncertainties it is imposing  are “harming the economic rebound.” (Yeah, I know. What economic rebound?) Black Friday weekend’s pathetic sales results make the concern I expressed several weeks ago that we could see a no-growth fourth quarter all too real.

This enterprise’s screw-ups, missed assignments, unaddressed problems and management failures have collectively created a level of disarray I have not seen in my lifetime — one which promises to sustain itself well into next year, if not longer. It’s likely that all we’ve seen so far represents the very small tip of a huge iceberg aimed straight at the economy and our civil society. Just wait until consumers get turned away because there’s no record of their enrollment, doctors and hospitals don’t get paid, and the frauds begin to be exposed.

Considering that the people involved are supposedly our best and brightest — as they and their media lapdogs constantly remind us — is it really possible that utter stupidity and incompetence fully explain what has transpired? I think not. Until someone can prove otherwise, the default position has to be that chaos is what they want, and that they will continue to work to deepen it.

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2 Comments

  1. The effort to claim that the system is working will mean no claims will be critically examined and fraudulent claims will be promptly paid. They will even brag about the number of claims processed even with a large number of false claims.

    Comment by dunce — December 10, 2013 @ 11:10 am

  2. #1, very likely outcome. It will stimulate the economy just like unemp benes and food stamps. (/sarc)

    Comment by Tom — December 10, 2013 @ 11:22 am

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