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Chairman's Message

On Delaying Obamacare

Posted: October 25, 2013 at 10:39 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

markUncaphernewLost in the back in forth in the debate over the government shutdown, Obamacare would have been better off had President Obama agreed to a one year delay in its implementation. The rapidly accumulating evidence is that more time was needed to before the program went live.

Liberal Washington Post commentator Ezra Klein sums it up succinctly: “So far, the Affordable Care Act’s launch has been a failure. Not ‘troubled.’ Not ‘glitchy.’ A failure.” [1]

At the very same time that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was insisting in July that the project was not in trouble, according to the New York Times “Confidential progress reports from the Health and Human Services Department show that senior officials repeatedly expressed doubts that the computer systems for the federal exchange would be ready on time, blaming delayed regulations, a lack of resources and other factors.”[2]

The Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress, was warning in June that many challenges had to be overcome before the Oct. 1 rollout.[3] Incredibly, Federal officials did not permit testing of the Obamacare website or issue final system requirements until four to six days before its Oct. 1 launch.

Given the clear indications of looming problems, the responsible choice prior to October 1st would have been the accept delay. By “winning” in the short term, the President may be the long term loser.

Maryland opted to develop its own website, rather than use the Federal one. Usually the unofficial cheerleaders of the O’Malley Administration, the Baltimore Sun reports: “Once you get beyond the slick-looking front page, it looks like something a college kid may have put together in an afternoon. It’s rife with weird programming, verification errors and dead ends,” said Jim Fortney of Silver Spring.”[4]

According to the Weekly Standard, for the time being, doctors and other providers are not yet available in Maryland Health Connection; therefore, if you choose to search for them on the website, you will receive a message that “no doctors are found” message.[5] Other glitches have included the website’s failure to include the healthcare co-ops that had been created under the new law.

Acknowledging problems with the Maryland site Gov. Martin O’Malley, commented that system flaws will take another month or six weeks to iron out.[6]

After Wednesday’s meeting of the Health Care Reform Coordinating Council, Maryland House Republican Leader Nic Kipke, was quoted by the Capital New Service that he wants to find out why the web site is “failing to operate” and what steps are being taken to remedy the problems. “Millions of taxpayer dollars have gone into building this exchange, and I think the public deserves to know what’s not working and which steps are being taken to fix it,” Kipke said.

Kipke said he has been skeptical of ‘Obamacare,’ and the speed with which the Maryland Health Connection website was created. According to Kipke “The time schedule Maryland had to create the exchange was not realistic, which is why I’ve been supportive of federal attempts to delay Obamacare.”[7]

However not just Republicans are asking questions about the Maryland site. The problems have become an issue in the Democratic primary. Doug Gensler’s running mate criticized Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown for remarks made to The Baltimore Sun that he did not anticipate the state’s new health care exchange would have problems, much less that they would be widespread.

Brown is the natural target of criticism because he is co-chair of the Maryland Health Care Reform Coordinating Council established in 2010 to address Obamacare implementation in the state.

Bloomberg writer Megan McArdle nicely describes the consequences of continuing problems: ” If the exchanges don’t get fixed soon, they could destroy Obamacare — and possibly, the rest of the private insurance market. The reason that the exchanges were so important was that they were needed to attract young, healthy people into the insurance system. ” [8]

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein concludes: “The Obama administration’s top job isn’t beating the Republicans. It’s running the government well. On this — the most important initiative they’ve launched — they’ve run the government badly. They deserve all the criticism they’re getting and more.”

Mark Uncapher
Montgomery County Republican Chairman