October 21, 2013

BYRON YORK: President leads a surreal pep rally for ailing Obamacare.

There was a lot of speculation about what President Obama would say when he made his first extended remarks about problems with the Affordable Care Act. Would he apologize? Would he crack the whip on his own administration, pledging that no more mistakes would be tolerated? Would he attempt to deflect blame to the Republicans who have long opposed Obamacare?

What few observers expected, given the ongoing failure of the Obamacare exchanges, was that Obama would hold a pep rally for the troubled system. And yet that is what he did. . . .

The president made a few more brief mentions of Obamacare’s technical deficiencies during his 28-minute speech, but in the end his Rose Garden appearance bore a great resemblance to the campaign-style speeches he made selling the health plan when Congress was considering it back in 2009 and 2010. (Minus, of course, the now-discredited promise that anyone who has coverage and likes it can keep it under the new system.)

Nothing about the event seemed to go smoothly. For example, Obama said anyone having trouble with the Obamacare website could call an 800 number to apply for coverage. “You can get your questions answered by real people, 24 hours a day, in 150 different languages,” Obama said. But a short time later, the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein tried the system and tweeted what he learned: “Can’t make this up. Got through to 800 number, followed prompts, and got referred to Healthcare.gov.”

Then there were the people Obama used as backdrops for his speech, people he said have “benefited from the Affordable Care Act already.” It turns out that was a stretch. One was a man who works in a Philadelphia restaurant, does not have health care through his employer, but has, according to a White House press handout, “recently used Healthcare.gov to process his application and is waiting for the options for potential plans.”

Another was a man just out of graduate school who has no health coverage but “is planning to enroll after he explores his coverage options on the D.C. exchange.” Yet another was a Tennessee small business owner who “was able to register through Healthcare.gov and now plans to comparison shop for the best plan that meets her budget and needs.”

As success stories go, they didn’t represent much success.

A short time after the president’s event, White House spokesman Jay Carney was either unable or unwilling to offer background on the website’s problems, on the testing that took place before the rollout, on the contractor involved, or on whether the administration will penalize Americans for not buying insurance when the website on which insurance is sold doesn’t work.

Talk about a bad day at the White House.

Even the traditional media are noticing.

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