'Ayes' Wired Shut: GOP Must Hold Line on Mandate Delay
On Saturday morning, Fox News interviewed Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan about an apparent overture by President Barack Obama intended to bring about an end to the horrible, awful, end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it 17 percent government shutdown.
The idea, in essence: pass a bill to fund the entire government, and then we can talk about making needed changes to Obamacare.
Pretty funny. For practical purposes -- at least in terms of having a functioning exchange, the hyped linchpin of the entire enterprise -- there is no Obamacare right now. Sure, there's a website, but only a tiny percentage of those wishing to use it have been able to and even fewer have actually purchased policies.
It got so bad last week that on Thursday, press apparatchiks, desperate for a poster child after almost three days of non-stop dispatches about HealthCare.gov's "glitches," swallowed the story of twenty-something Chad Henderson hook, line, and sinker: publicity hound Henderson claimed that he "got health insurance," but was later found to have purchased nothing. Beyond that, he disclosed that he works -- perhaps it's "worked," now that he's no longer a useful idiot -- "for an organization that pays me quarterly to posts [sic] the political stuff as 'advocacy' (so it's kind of my job)." It didn't take much of an effort to find pathetic Obama worship and hatred of conservatives in his now-protected Twitter account, and his still-open (as of this writing) Instagram collection.
Henderson claimed that the policy he finally admitted to not purchasing would cost him $175 per month. That's about four times what a catastrophic coverage policy would have cost outside the Obamacare realm. Contrary to popular perception, as I noted in late August, "individuals and families can sign up for private coverage any time between now and the end of the year ... doing so (as long as premiums are paid, of course) avoids the need to enroll in Obamacare until one year from the policy’s start date."
Even if magical fixes occur in the coming weeks or months -- can you believe the gall of a president begging for months of patience for a system to become functional when millions of Americans must have some form of coverage under penalty of law in less than 90 days? -- this disaster threatens to become much more serious:
As few as 1 in 100 applications on the federal exchange contains enough information to enroll the applicant in a plan.
[F]ederal officials could face a situation in January in which relatively large numbers of people believe they have coverage starting that month, but whose enrollment applications are have not been processed.
That's enough to make you wonder who is involved in creating this mess. And that sound you hear is of a can of worms opening:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversaw development of the site, declined to make any of its IT experts available for interviews. CGI Group Inc., the Canadian contractor that built HealthCare.gov, is "declining to comment at this time," said spokeswoman Linda Odorisio. (emphasis mine)
Oh, it gets worse. The Washington Examiner reports that CGI has experience the Obama administration apparently finds valuable:
The company is deeply embedded in Canada’s single-payer system. (emphasis mine)
Well, that's nice, except Obamacare isn't a single-payer system -- at least not yet -- and expertise in such a system would seem irrelevant in what is supposed to be a "marketplace."
- Any number of domestic firms with health insurance industry application processing and claims experience could have and should have done this work -- emphasis on "domestic." Were IBM, HP and others somehow tainted by being U.S.-based?
- Though I'm sure CGI has American citizens working on the project, it's reasonable to suspect that a firm whose services include "outsourcing" might be using foreign workers with H-1B visas to help build America's government-run health care system. Based on the fact that CGI, whose U.S. operations are based in Fairfax, Virginia, filed 299 such visa applications in 2012, up from 172 in 2011, I believe we can say with some confidence that non-citizens are doing HealthCare.gov jobs quite a few unemployed American IT professionals would be thrilled to do. If this seems like a stretch, consider that we already know that many state exchange contracts "allow, in their silence, the use of temporary visa workers."
- It's also fair, given CGI's involvement, to ask how much of the substantive work on the project is being done overseas, and how much confidential user information, over which security is already known to be shaky, is being processed overseas or passing through overseas connections.
A private insurance company, seeing such a failed rollout unfold, would immediately stop the madness and revert to what it had been doing, lest its customers flee in droves and its competitors eat its lunch. Unfortunately, this is the government, which -- thanks to John Roberts and the Supreme Court -- has its citizen-subjects held captive by a law which should have been ruled unconstitutional, and to a system which has no long-term competition. And we're dealing with the Obama administration, which is hell-bent on forcing what is perhaps the most unpopular major government program in U.S. history down Americans' throats.
Which brings us to the "shutdown."
First and most obviously, it's not the fault of Speaker John Boehner's Republican House majority. They have passed bill after bill to keep the government running. If Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's Senate were really sure that sentiment is on his side, he would bring the House's bills to a vote as they arrived. He hasn't, for almost a week.
Additionally, Obama and his administration, in a display of petulance never seen in previous contentious "shutdowns," have unnecessarily and spitefully "Barrycaded" national memorials -- even wiring them shut in some instances -- closed privately run parks, inflicted harm on fishermen and private homeowners, and prevented, under threat of arrest, the conduct of religious services at many military installations.
The exchanges must be delayed for a year. This would, as the Republicans have emphasized, put individuals on the same footing as businesses, whose compliance with the "employer mandate" was delayed until January 1, 2015. Without that concession, Republican congresspersons need to keep their "ayes" as wired shut as Obama's Barrycades.
If Team Obama was supremely confident -- as they want everyone to believe they are -- that the American people are in love with Obamacare, they would give themselves another year to get the mechanics right and to make the 2014 congressional elections a final referendum on their president's self-described "historic" program.
But they won't, unless public opinion forces them to. And we know why.
(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a modified Shutterstock.com image.)