The satirical website, The Onion, scores big with this post on fixing Obamacare:
"I have heard the complaints about the existing website, and I can assure you that with this revised system, finding the right health care option for you and your family is as easy as loading 35 floppy disks sequentially into your disk drive and following the onscreen prompts," President Obama told reporters this morning, explaining that the nearly three dozen 3.5-inch diskettes contain all the data needed for individuals to enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace, while noting that the updated Obamacare software is mouse-compatible and requires a 386 Pentium processor with at least 8 MB of system RAM to function properly. "Just fire up MS-DOS, enter 'A:\>dir *.exe' into the command line, and then follow the instructions to install the Obamacare batch files--it should only take four or five hours at the most. You can press F1 for help if you run into any problems. And be sure your monitor's screen resolution is at 320 x 200 or it might not display properly." Obama added that the federal government hopes to have a six-CD-ROM version of the program available by 2016.
Editor Lifson reported yesterday that in the immediate aftermath of President Obama's suggestion that consumers could get insured by calling a toll free number, that system promptly crashed for the tremendous volume.
Tell me this isn't a government operation.
As with all good satire, there is a kernel of truth in The Onion's story. The spin being put out by the White House, HHS, and Obama's allies in the press is incredible. They are admitting just enough of the truth so that they can't be accused of outright lying, but their explanations border on the surreal.
Ezra Klein says the problems are a "blessing in disguise":
The traffic problems may well have been a blessing in disguise for the Obama administration: If everyone had been able to buy health insurance, the insurers would be getting tens of thousands, and maybe hundreds of thousands, of garbled or flatly incorrect applications. The results of that could've been catastrophic, as people would believe they had purchased health insurance they never actually got, or would've ended up on a plan different then the one they chose.
Wait! Stop! I'm getting dizzy.
And then there's the "who to blame" game:
The problem here isn't just technological. It's managerial. The White House's senior staff -- up to and including the president -- was blindsided. Staffers deep in the process knew that HealthCare.gov wasn't ready for primetime. But those frustrations were hidden from top-level managers. Somewhere along the chain the information was spun, softened, or just plain buried.
The result was that the White House didn't know the truth about its own top initiative -- and so they were unprepared for the disastrous launch. They didn't even know they needed to be lowering expectations. In any normal corporation, heads would roll over a managerial failure of such magnitude and consequence.
In other words, despite the fact that putting lipstick on a pig doesn't alter Porky's unsightly appearance, blame the pig's ugliness on the make up artist and not the guy whose idea it was to gussy up the porker in the first place.
Superb spin. Unfortunately for Klein, it isn't true. From a National Journal story last July, "White House Has Known For Months Obamacare Implementation Wouldn't Work":
If you've been reading all the Obamacare stories lately, you might get the impression that the administration has just realized it will not be able to implement the massive health reform as designed.
It has known for months.
As far back as March, a top IT official at the Department of Health and Human Services said the department's current ambition for the law's new online insurance marketplaces was that they not be "a Third-World experience." Several provisions had already been abandoned in an effort to simplify the administration's task and maximize the chances that the new systems would be ready to go live in October, when customers are supposed to start signing up for insurance.
So some low level managers hid the bad news from the president and the White House? Henry Chao, a CMS official who's overseeing the technology for the exchange launch was the individual quoted as worrying about the website being a "third world experience." Mr. Chao is not some low level staffer and besides, he didn't keep his analysis from anyone.
Let's hope the White House admits to not talking to this fellow because it's better to look incompetent rather than a liar.
Meanwhile, I eagerly await the arrival of my 35 disk Obamacare program.