Saturday, November 09, 2013

Problem Not Solved

On November 5, Fox News reported

CGI Federal Inc, the company that created large parts of the error-plagued ObamaCare exchange website, which it says it is scrambling to fix, has recently been awarded several other government contracts.

Since the ObamaCare exchange website launched on Oct. 1, government officials have signed at least five different agreements with CGI totaling $7 million, according to, a government website that lists government contracts. The contracts were for computer and software development at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Commerce, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

One contract, for instance, was signed Oct. 19 by Department of Commerce officials that gives CGI Federal $266,164 to provide "IT and Telecom Systems Development" for the Patent Office.,,

“This is a typical example of government creating perverse incentives,” George Mason University economics professor Donald Boudreaux told “Unlike, say, a private homeowner who fires a contractor who does a poor job, the government rewards such poorly performing contractors with new work at lucrative rates.”

The Hill reported two days later "Ten Republican senators sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday urging him to terminate all federal contracts with CGI or whatever private contractor is most responsible for the terrible rollout of Obamacare."

Correction:  the article by staff writer Jonathan Easely actually reads

Ten Republican senators sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday urging him to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "immediately."

“When you have good management and you have clear accountability, you usually get something done right,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee said in a statement. “In the rollout of this health care law, we have had neither.” 

Alexander and others have previously called for Sebelius to resign, but Thursday’s letter urges the president to “immediately relieve” her.

Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also signed the letter.

In addition to the botched launch of the, the senators say Sebelius should be fired because she ignored signals that the site wasn’t ready in the run-up to Oct. 1, and because she “misled the public by claiming the issues were the result of high volume.” 

“While assurances have been made that solutions are forthcoming, we have little confidence that immediate resolution is imminent,” the senators wrote.

It goes a ways toward explaining the fix we're in that the GOP will attack the federal government- and, especially, the HHS Secretary- and completely ignore the role of the private market in fouling the nest.   Confronted with health care reform loosely based on a plan by the Heritage Foundation, put into effect (apparently successfully) by a Republican governor in Massachusetts, and which steers consumers into private insurance plans, the GOP charged the Affordable Care Act was "a government takeover of health insurance."

The President is playing defense, admitting in his interview with NBC's Chuck Todd

I think we, in good faith, have been trying to take on a health care system that has been broken for a very long time. And what we've been trying to do is to change it in the least disruptive way possible. I mean, keep in mind that there were folks on the left who would have preferred a single payer plan. That would have been a lot more disruptive. There were folks on the right who said, "Let's just get rid of-- you know, employer deductions for health care. And give people-- a tax credit and they can go buy their own health care in their own market." That would have been more disruptive.

We tried to find-- a proven model. We've seen it work in Massachusetts. That would be as-- as undisruptive as possible. And in good faith, tried to write the law in such a way that people could keep their care. Although we really believe that ultimately, they're going to be better off when they're buying health care through the marketplaces. They can-- access tax credits. And they're benefiting from more choice and competition. But obviously, we didn't do a good enough job in terms of how we crafted the law. And, you know, that's something that I regret. That's something that we're going to do everything we can to get fixed.

Obama could have blamed the insurance industry for dropping people from their insurance plans, especially for not explaining to their client that he/she can go onto the exchange and purchase alternative health care insurance.  Ezra Klein notes "he shouldn't apologize for blowing up the individual market. It needed to be done."

But he didn't (blame insurance companies) and he did (apologize).  Obama should go on the offensive while continuing to rebuff Repub efforts to force him to fire HHS Secretary Sebelius.

Republicans who previously had called for Obama's impeachment could use the botched ACA rollout and the President's lie about all being able to keep their insurance as excuses to bolster their (weak) case. But they won't because if they were successful, Joe Biden would assume the presidency and win election on his own in 2016.  Instead, they aim their fire at Kathleen Sebelius, an easy target. But as David Atkins explains

The reality is that one of the primary reasons for the difficulty of implementing Obamacare, beyond the fact that it's a needlessly complicated Rube Goldberg public-private neoliberal contraption, is Republican sabotage.

That sabotage will only continue if anyone whose replacement Republicans can block is fired over the rollout. If Obama were to fire Sebelius, Republicans would see to it that no one to the left of Newt Gingrich would be allowed to replace her. Nor is there any reasonable incentive for the President to allow the saboteurs to be given a trophy of that magnitude regardless of her alleged culpability.

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