Despite Three-and-a-Half Years to Prep Obamacare, A Fiasco Takes Shape

The best clue that the initial open enrollment period for Obamacare's health insurance exchanges is destined to be a bureaucratic nightmare which will fail virtually every benchmark came on Saturday morning. Hadas Gold and Kyle Cheney at Politico, two advocates posing as reporters, all but begged the press to avoid "any rush judgments (which) could have a big impact on public opinion of the law" during its critical first few days. They described administration officials as "pleading with reporters to avoid being seduced into treating every technical snafu as a catastrophic failure."

I don't see why the Politico pair or the Obama administration should be all that worried. A small number of local and regional reporters may balk at drinking the "all is well" Kool-Aid if the foul-ups are sufficiently blatant and visible, but the nation's establishment press has already shown its bonafides. (Though in 2006 under George W. Bush, they didn't hesitate to dwell for months on problems in the rollout of Medicare Part D, which were in retrospect relatively minor.) The national press is vested in the current venture's success, and perhaps even less likely to acknowledge serious complications and failure than certain Obama administration officials will be in unguarded moments.

The facts, whatever the PR turns out to be, are that the administration and the press have failed Obamacare tests for three-and-a-half years. Admittedly, they have had assistance from the law's opponents, who have inexplicably failed to highlight easily understood and financially crippling design flaws which -- if conveyed to the public -- would have caused the program's meager popularity to crater.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has had since March 2010 to prepare for open enrollment's October 2013 rollout. Besides churning out thousands of pages of regulations, what have she and her army been doing?

Someone performing as Sebelius has in the private sector would have been fired at least a year ago, when it become obvious that her implementation plan -- having already missed critical deadlines almost two years ago -- was still hopelessly behind.

However, this would have been an admission of failure during an election year.

Instead, Sebelius and the administration unilaterally, and illegally, delayed imposing the employer mandate requiring companies to cover "full-time" employees -- defined as any employee who works an average of 30 hours per week -- for one year. The political motivation behind this cop-out is so transparent, one wonders if the delay wasn't hard-coded in the plan. There has been no change in the individual mandate, which requires individuals and families to have health insurance coverage beginning next year or face a fine. So the employer mandate delay combined with the still-present individual mandate will force more Americans into the state health insurance exchanges. The administration is likely intent on making the process of undoing the exchanges as difficult as possible.