Health care hitches and glitches: What a mess!


    Oh man. Check out these media reports about the start-up headaches in the new health coverage program:

    “A predictable and predicted mess,” laments The New Republic magazine. “You didn’t have to have fortune-telling powers to see that, without a lot of very intensive planning and hand-holding, this (launch) wasn’t going to work out well.”

    “The federal government’s rollout has resulted in confusion,” says the Houston Chronicle. “The software wasn’t working, the web was slow.”

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    “The trouble stems from worse than expected start-up problems,” says USA Today. One health expert tells the paper, “It’s a major crisis.” Another expert says, “Most of the people haven’t been reached. By any measure, we’ve got a long way to go.”

    “There are glitches,” a spokesman for the Kasier Family Foundation tells the Baltimore Sun, “and it’s hard to quantify how many people have problems (signing up). But for those who do, they are real.”

    “This is a national problem, a national computer glitch,” a fuming congressman tells PBS. “We can’t just say we will fix it next week or next month. You have got to take care of it now.”

    “We can only hope that federal officials fix the glitches quickly before public disenchantment undermines prospects for enrolling enough people to give the new program real prospects for success,” the New York Times editorializes. “When the dust settles, it will be imperative to pinpoint how the problems arose…and how further fiascos can be avoided.”

    “Even health professionals and lawyers who pride themselves on knowing the inner workings of Byzantine government programs said they were frustrated by the complexity and scope of the problems,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. One health care professional tells the paper, “There are breakdowns at every point, and there is no one there fix them.” Another expert says, “It’s an outrage. They should end the program and start over.”

    I’ve collected a lot more, but I trust that by now you’ve already guessed the punchline:

    All those reports ran in the press seven years ago – to mark the glitch-ridden launch of the Medicare prescription drug program.

    At the behest of the Bush White House, it was the biggest and costliest expansion of Medicare in its 40-year history – and what a mess it was back in January ’06. As one Times report noted, “Only about 3.6 million signed up voluntarily in the first 60 days of the enrollment period, a modest figure due at least in part to the complexity of the systerm. Worse yet, those who would benefit the most…have been disproportionately slow to sign up.” (Sound familiar?)

    You see where I’m going with this. The right-wing ideologues who have shut down the government – and the guzzlers of troll juice who mimic them – have a serious cognitive disease. They seem to think (and I use the word think advisedly) that they can rail about Obamacare’s initial glitches without anyone bringing up the fact that the same kind of stuff happened, and the same kind of complaints were lodged, when Bush’s Medicare drug program debuted.

    And they probably have no idea that the drug program at the outset was more unpopular in the polls (39 percent yes, 56 percent no; 26 percent yes among seniors; 47 percent no) than Obamacare is today. Yet once the hitches and glitches were erased – and it took many many months – the enrollments increased, the polls were reversed, and today the drug program is a fixture of American life.

    All of which explains why ideologues prefer to believe that the world began at Obama’s first Inaugural. Historical perspective – even as recent as 2006 – is the enemy of purblind purity.


    Speaking of ideologues, how’s the mood inside the bubble? This Times report, attributed to GOP sources, says it all:

    “(House Speaker Boehner) and his leadership team have no real idea how to resolve the fiscal showdown. They are only trying to survive another day, Republican strategists say, hoping to maintain unity as long as possible so that when the Republican position collapses, they can capitulate on two issues at once – financing the government and raising the debt ceiling – and head off any internal party backlash.”

    There it is, laid bare: The folks who have crashed the government – and who are putting lots of American workers at risk – have “no real idea” how to extricate themselves from the cul de sac of their own making. They’re just trying to “survive” day to day until their position “collapses.”

    How pathetic.

    But I’ll yield the floor to Marc A. Thiessen, ex-Bush speechwriter, ex-Jesse Helms aide, and current scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute: “So we’ve gone from defunding Obamacare…to delaying Obamacare…to delaying parts of Obamacare…to funding the government piecemeal without touching Obamacare at all. If Republicans have already conceded the defunding of Obamacare, what’s the point of keeping the government closed? It calls to mind the episode of Seinfeld where Jerry and George are coming up with an idea for a show to pitch to NBC — and decide it will be ‘a show about nothing.’ That’s what this standoff has become – the Seinfeld Shutdown, a shutdown about nothing.”

    Thank you, conservative Republican. But when Jerry and George did it, at least we could laugh.


    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1


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