Wednesday 23 October 2013

Whining about the Obamacare website


Let’s look at the rollout of big programs in the past.

The New Deal rollout in the 1930s: the conservatives howled that the rollout of these programs was the first phase in a socialist takeover of the government and the country. FDR laughed it off: he said he was just throwing a dozen ideas out there, ready to kill the ideas that turned out to be stupid and move on to the next one. Some of the programs didn’t work, some of them were shot down by the courts, and some outlived their usefulness – contrary to conservative fears, most are gone now, having completed their work. But they still saved America from catastrophe. Even though the entire rollout was beset with setbacks, courtroom challenges, political backlash, and finally a concerted conservative push to stop FDR from passing any legislation of any kind. Twelve years of chaos.

Social Security: getting the first check to the first recipient took TWO YEARS. By Year Five, the system had only paid out $35 million total. It took years of tinkering to get it right.

Medicare and Medicaid: also a messy, controversial start, and we’ve been reforming and tinkering with them ever since.

Medicare Part D: George Bush created a total catastrophe, in part because there is no mechanism for negotiating drug prices, which costs a staggering $50 billion a year. Ask a conservative why they’re complaining about Obamacare which will save us tons of money, but not complaining about Medicare Part D which has helped explode our national debt. And then remind them that when Bush had a bad launch of Part D, liberals stepped in to help clean up his mess, because liberals would rather attack America’s problems than attack America’s conservatives. But the conservatives would rather slit their wrists than cooperate with the health care effort.

Rolling out big programs takes time and there will be glitches. The best-designed website in the world is going to crash if eight million people hit it within the first 48 hours: in fact that is one of the most popular ways for hackers to crash websites. That flood of applicants is not a sign that the website is bad: it’s a sign of how desperate the need for Obamacare is. And Obamacare still managed to process 467,000 applications in 19 days, not to mention the applications coming through the phones and the other venues, and the customers applying at the state exchanges (when the conservatives aren’t blocking them), and the people taking advantage of the Medicaid expansion (when the conservatives aren’t blocking them).

If the conservatives were willing to comply with the Obamacare law, and with the Medicaid expansion, and the exchanges, instead of trying to destroy all health-care efforts so as to embarrass a black president, can you imagine how much further along we would be? Or better yet, if they hadn’t used parliamentary tricks to block the public option which would have saved us billions? And finally catch America up to every civilized country on earth, on health care?

Want another illuminating comparison? Facebook. Eight million people wanted to get into the Obamacare site in two days. You know how long Zuckerberg took to get that many members on his site? It wasn’t two days, it was two years. And Facebook doesn’t involve all the complications that Obamacare does.

An even better comparison? The current scandal over Texas voting. Texas, freed from the Voting Rights Act by a craven Supreme Court, has imposed impossible new restrictions on voter identification, throwing women out of voting places because their voter ID has their middle names as middle names, while their driver’s licenses have their maiden names, or whatever. The conservatives in the state legislature promised that the 1.4 million people who had these problems would get free IDs. So they rolled out that ID program, right when Obama was rolling out Obamacare. How many people actually got their Texas IDs? Fifty. Out of more than a million. Is any conservative complaining about this terrible roll-out?

This is what Obama and Sebelius should be saying, instead of hanging their heads like two basset hounds who got caught peeing on the floor. 

PS Likewise Romneycare in Massachusetts. First month’s enrollees? 123 total. Obama beat that by 400,000.

PPS The Republicans are celebrating the $400 billion rollout of the F-35 fighter plane which the services don’t want because it doesn’t work. 

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