OBAMACARE FALLOUT: Obama Insider: “Excruciatingly Embarrassing for the White House… Bungled Badly… Hope They Fire Some People…”

October 14, 2013

Add former White House Press Secretary and close Obama confidante Robert Gibbs to the list of administration allies who are troubled by the health law’s rocky launch. During an appearance on MSNBC today, Gibbs stated, “Let’s just say this is excruciatingly embarrassing for the White House and for the Department of Health and Human Services. This was bungled badly. ... This is a website architecture problem. … I hope they are working day and night to get this done. And when they get it fixed, I hope they fire some people that were in charge of making sure this thing was supposed to work. We knew there were going to be some glitches. But these were glitches that go, quite frankly, way beyond the pale of what should be expected.”

By all accounts, the first two weeks of open enrollment have been a nightmare, and it is one the administration knew was coming. For months members of this committee have cautioned that the law was not ready for prime time. CNBC explains that Aetna’s CEO, “said his giant company’s role as an alpha tester for the system gave it a sense of how many problems the health insurance marketplace faced on the eve of its launch.” The New York Times adds, “In March, Henry Chao, the chief digital architect for the Obama administration’s new online insurance marketplace, told industry executives that he was deeply worried about the Web site’s debut.” Nevertheless, administration officials did not stray from their insistence that the law was “working the way it is supposed to.” 

The Wall Street Journal explained, “The problem might have been largely averted if consumers had been able to browse plans without going through the complex registration process first, experts say.” However, this was a deliberate choice the administration made. “Federal officials had debated internally whether to allow users to view plans without applying, according to people familiar with the process. An HHS spokeswoman said the agency wanted to ensure that users were aware of their eligibility for subsidies that could help pay for coverage, before they started seeing the prices of policies.”

As The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein notes, “One of the Obama administration’s jobs, separate from all of the political stuff we talk about here, is to simply run things like this well, to run their signature legislative initiative well. … On that, so far, this has been a big failure.”