SNAFU, FUBAR, ClusterF--k: Welcome to the Rollout of the Affordable Care Act
As we advance toward the much anticipated rollout of Obamacare on October 1, the true horror of what Congress and the president have wrought is beginning to sink in. There is a growing nervousness that the state insurance exchanges not only won't be ready, but may harbor a dangerous vulnerability that would allow hackers access to the personal information of consumers who sign up for insurance via the sites.
There is also a growing number of Democrats who are advocating a repeal of one of Obamacare's major pieces: the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which will arbitrarily rule on Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals. Howard Dean wrote in an op-ed last month that the IPAB would end up rationing healthcare for Medicare recipients and should be repealed. Also, in a vote last month, several Democrats broke from the pack and voted to delay the individual mandate for a year -- the first real sign of dissension within the ranks, as vulnerable members search frantically for a way to avoid responsibility for their vote to enact Obamacare.
Then there's the exemption for members of Congress and their staffs from some Obamacare requirements, while special rules have been written that would allow lawmakers to keep their generous tax-payer subsidy -- up to 75% of their insurance premiums. Add that to the thousands of waivers granted to administration allies and large corporations who are exempted from the ACA for at least a year.
Beyond all of this, there is the threat that, in the process of trying to defund Obamacare, Republicans will force a government shutdown creating further chaos. A shutdown will not stop Obamacare from being implemented, but it will probably create additional confusion (if that's possible) among consumers.
The U.S. military has come up with several euphemisms that are apt descriptions of what we might expect on October 1 and beyond with Obamacare's rollout; SNAFU ("Situation Normal, All F--ked Up"), FUBAR ("Fu--ked Up Beyond All Recognition"), and the simple, declarative Clusterf--k. Given what we know, less than 60 days from the rollout, those may be some of the milder epithets we will hear from the American people once they begin to deal with the state exchanges, the Independent Payment Advisory Board, the IRS, HHS, and the insurance companies themselves.
Perhaps the most serious threat to the rollout is the inexplicable and incompetent manner in which the government is trying to ensure that a citizen's personal information -- massive amounts of which will be required to sign up for the insurance policies and get the subsidy -- is protected and secure.
The news was dumped on an unsuspecting public last Friday, and it wasn't until midweek that it began to sink in that the government geeks responsible for designing a secure website to handle all the private information of American citizens had fallen months behind in testing the sites' vulnerability. At issue is the Federal Data Services Hub that will connect the various federal agencies to the exchanges and allow the flow of information necessary to service the consumer. An inspector general's report revealed that a "security control assessment" scheduled for May still hasn't been performed and that other critical tests have also been delayed. It is now expected that a final report on security won't be forthcoming until September 20 at the earliest and that a decision on whether the exchanges are secure enough to open won't be made until September 30 -- one day before the sites go live.
As this Investor's Business Daily editorial points out, the reason this comes as a surprise is because officials in the Obama administration lied to Congress about progress on securing the exchanges:
As far back as December 2012, Obama administration officials were insisting that the data hub at the center of the ObamaCare exchanges was nearly finished.
Yet all the while, they were pushing back deadlines or missing them altogether, to the point where, unless ObamaCare's launch is delayed, millions of people's privacy will be at risk.
Obama officials may, in fact, have flat-out lied to lawmakers about the data hub's progress.
In February, Sen. Orrin Hatch pressed Gary Cohen — who is heading up much of the ObamaCare implementation efforts at the Health and Human Services Department — about the status of "service-level agreements" required with all the agencies before they can open their data to the hub. The agreements define services, responsibilities, performance and other terms for data sharing.
Hatch asked Cohen whether HHS had "signed service-level agreements with IRS, the Social Security Administration, homeland security and all the other agencies that will be providing information to the data hub."
"We have," Cohen said.
But at that time there were no service-level agreements in force, according to an inspector general report. HHS didn't sign its first — with the IRS — until March. And all but two of the seven still haven't been signed.