LOS ANGELES, October 2, 2013—From a brief perusal of the headlines, Day 1 of Obamacare’s exchange rollouts did not go swimmingly.
Washington Examiner columnist Charlie Spiering wrote: The glitchy error-filled misadventures of creating an account on healthcare.gov.
The National Journal’s headline was muted: Obamacare exchanges: not working as planned.
While the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel was a bit more honest: Glitches, shutdown complicate Obamacare exchange in state.
Finally, the Miami Herald simply told the truth: Obamacare insurance exchange off to rocky start.
As a former software analyst and troubleshooter, I have been through my share of software rollouts. Even the most carefully tested, planned, and incremental ones have glitches and unexpected problems. Sad to say, this exchange rollout, after three years of supposed strategy, was neither incremental nor properly planned. Carefully tested? Doubtful, especially since less than one month ago many of the systems were not even complete, let alone tried. If Day 1 is showing this type of fruit, one shudders to think what Day 31 will look like.
President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius attributed the resultant glitches and crashes to the drain on the system from the amount of people desperately needing health care attempting to sign up. Realtor Sam Ramey scathingly puts that spin to bed:
“[She] is bragging about the 2.5 million people who went to the Obamacare website and that it crashed the site. That’s about half of Los Angeles. For a nation of over 350 million (legal) citizens, that’s less than .5 percent of the country. I have a database of 5,000 users with 600 going to my rameyregroup.com and mypropertyvaluereport.com websites at any one time. That’s about 12 percent, and they haven’t crashed yet.”
Then the President really stepped in it, making the poorest of analogies by comparing the first day of the exchange rollout to the Apple iOS7 upgrade. “Consider that just a couple of weeks ago, Apple rolled out a new mobile operating system, and within days, they found a glitch, so they fixed it. I don’t remember anybody suggesting Apple should stop selling iPhones or iPads or threatening to shut down the company if they didn’t,” Obama said.
Here is where the analogy fails: Apple produces high-end products sold at high-end prices. Unless you get one of their products refurbished, on the black market or as a gift, you can expect to shell out no less than $700 for their lower-end models. Apple has built a reputation and they price their products accordingly. From the testimonials of the Apple fans in my circle, their products live up to the cost and the resultant benefits.
After a three-year lead time and a great deal of money spent to trumpet the arrival of the exchanges, here is what we have: Several states are still not ready to enroll participants. The software in some states cannot calculate an accurate premium price. Days before the October 1 date, D.C. announced that shoppers would not have access to their premium prices until mid-November. Most troublesome, on Oct 1, people either could not sign on to the site or it took hours to complete their registration.
Anyone paying money for this would have asked for it back. But wait… we can’t. Because it’s the law. With an already shoddy reputation (anyone looked at Medicare and our VAs lately?), and no credibility to rely upon, our government simply resorts to spin. Come January 1, 2014, it will move to penalties. What’s next, coercion tactics?
Another way the Apple analogy fails is that one can choose the operating system one uses, and whether or not to upgrade. I do not own a Macbook, iPad, or iPhone. The PC, and Samsung Galaxy are among my technology arsenal. I do not purchase Apple products because they don’t fit my working style, my pocketbook, or my way of life.
The key word here is choice. No one is forcing me to use one system over the other. President Obama has touted that Obamacare increases choice. But in my home state of California you are limited to the government’s approved insurance carriers. How is that increased choice?
Even if one desires to pay more to get more, you are limited to the exchange’s Bronze, Silver, and Platinum plan structure. How is this increased flexibility? If the doctor that I have been going to for years is not in my exchange network, then my newly minted insurance policy will not cover the cost of that doctor. How does that add up to, “If you like your doctor, you can keep him?” How does this translate to more focused and cost-effective care?
Just like you cannot compare apples and oranges, the Apple and Obamacare comparison fails miserably. Both the President and HHS Secy Sebelius need to stop the spin and take a look at what is wrong with their signature legislation, otherwise the other successful analogies drawn by Obamacare’s opponents will become self-fulfilling prophecy.
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