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Putting the best face on Healthcare.gov: “In effect, the administration gave itself a passing grade”

by | Dec 2, 2013

 

By Dave Andrusko

Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs

Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs

Over at “Stenographers to Power: WashPost Prematurely Proclaimed ‘Health Web Site to Meet Deadline,’”  Newsbusters’ Tim Graham deftly explains how the Washington Post was ultra-eager to give Healthcare.gov not only an “A” for effort but also (at a minimum) a Gentleman’s “C” for improvement.

Worth noting—not because it is unique but because it happens so often—is that in writing that “Health Web site to meet deadline: Officials set to announce fixes,” the Post reporters managed not to find a single dissenting voice.

More news over the weekend and today punctures that self-satisfying balloon. Here are just a few examples.

From the Weekly Standard, quoting from an appearance by former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on today’s “Morning Joe.”

One reporter asked Gibbs: “Is the administration being as forthcoming as it could be or should be about what’s working and what’s not?”

“Well, look, I think, you know, the notion that it works for a vast majority of users, obviously, is as many have pointed out an arbitrary measure. We don’t know the exact number. It is clear from reporting that people are having a better user experience,” said Gibbs.

“Again, I think the pressure now will be on the administration to be more forthcoming about what’s happening on the back-end and whether insurance companies are getting the information.”

Speaking of the rest of the system, the New York Times (rabidly pro-Obama and pro-ObamaCare) did a brilliant job in shredding the obfuscations and clarifying that comparatively speaking, being able to successfully get on Healthcare.gov is the easy part. Here’s the lead to Robert Pear’s and Reed Abelson’s report.

“Weeks of frantic technical work appear to have made the government’s health care website easier for consumers to use. But that does not mean everyone who signs up for insurance can enroll in a health plan.

“The problem is that the systems that are supposed to deliver consumer information to insurers still have not been fixed. And with coverage for many people scheduled to begin in just 30 days, insurers are worried the repairs may not be completed in time.

“’Until the enrollment process is working from end to end, many consumers will not be able to enroll in coverage,’ said Karen M. Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group.”

Their story (“Insurers Claim Health Website Is Still Flawed”) is a litany of problems that goes on and on, the impact of which is to place insurers in a near-impossible position.

“The issues are vexing and complex. Some insurers say they have been deluged with phone calls from people who believe they have signed up for a particular health plan, only to find that the company has no record of the enrollment. Others say information they received about new enrollees was inaccurate or incomplete, so they had to track down additional data — a laborious task that will not be feasible if data is missing for tens of thousands of consumers.

“In still other cases, insurers said, they have not been told how much of a customer’s premium will be subsidized by the government, so they do not know how much to charge the policyholder.

“In trying to fix HealthCare.gov, President Obama has given top priority to the needs of consumers, assuming that arrangements with insurers can be worked out later.

“The White House announced on Sunday that it had met its goal for improving HealthCare.gov so the website ‘will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.’

“In effect, the administration gave itself a passing grade.”

Remember all the discussion about finding “workarounds”—ways of circumventing the nightmarish scenario so many people experience trying to log on healthcare.gov? According to Pear and Abelson

“Despite talk from time to time of finding some sort of workaround, experts say insurers have little choice but to wait for the government to fix these problems. The insurers are in ‘an unenviable position,’ said Brett Graham, a managing director at Leavitt Partners, which has been advising states and others on the exchanges. ‘Although they don’t have the responsibility or the capability to fix the system, they’re reliant on it.’”

USA Today’s Monday editorial has a benign headline—“HealthCare.gov better but not yet well”—but it fairly ripples with harsh criticisms. The three “bullet points” at the top of the editorial that capture some of the chief criticisms aptly summarize much of the critique:

· First deadline is just three weeks away.

· Up to 40% of the system hadn’t even been built, the administration said 2 weeks ago.

· Insurers are shrinking doctor and hospital networks to cut costs.

About that latter point, the USA Today’s editorial notes

“Obama has already had hellish problems after promising that if people liked their insurance, they could keep it. There could be a similar battle brewing over his pledge that people could keep their doctors, because insurers are shrinking doctor and hospital networks to cut costs.”

One other stinging rebuke (courtesy of Ed Morrissey at Hotair.com). He begins with this quote from NBC News Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd on Sunday’s “Meet the Press” in a back and forth with Host David Gregory:

CHUCK TODD: David, the most interesting thing in this report, right, page one– it’s page three of the report, it says here that, “The team is operating with private sector velocity and effectiveness.”

DAVID GREGORY: Yeah.

CHUCK TODD: Okay, that is an acknowledgement that, “You know what? If this was a government operation for a long time and it failed, now we’re bringing in the private sector folks.” I mean, that is an indictment on the whole idea of government as a solution, frankly, when you look at [unintelligible].

To which Morrissey adds,

“And that’s assuming that the Healthcare.gov team actually has achieved that level of competence. In the private sector, companies don’t brag about that — it’s the minimum expected in a competitive market. The fact that they have to brag about that tends to make one skeptical that they even comprehend what ‘private-sector velocity and effectiveness’ means.”

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Categories: ObamaCare