November 7, 2013

JAMES TARANTO: The Worst Is Yet to Come: There probably isn’t time to mitigate the ObamaCare debacle.

The ObamaCare debacle carries the name of the president and the face of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the highest-ranking official subject to congressional oversight. Sebelius was on Capitol Hill again today, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee. She assured the Democrat-run panel that “repairs are under way on the most serious [technical] problems” afflicting the federal insurance exchange, The Wall Street Journal reports. Such problems, she claimed, number “a couple of hundred.”

The exchange was supposed to be functional at the beginning of October. The administration now promises it will be by the end of November. Sebelius’s assurances strained the credulity even of Chairman Max Baucus, who cast the deciding vote to pass ObamaCare in December 2009. “It has been disappointing to hear members of the administration say they didn’t see problems coming,” Baucus told Sebelius today. “We heard multiple times that everything was on track. We now know that was not the case.” In April Baucus famously told Sebelius “he saw ‘a huge train wreck coming down,’ ” a statement that proved to be an outrageous slander against train wrecks.

The administration’s decision to cut itself two months’ slack raises two questions: Can it keep the new promise, and what happens in December?

There is every reason to doubt the exchange can be made functional in the next 24 days. One reason is that much of the coverage and commentary tends to minimize the seriousness of the challenge by describing the nonfunctional system as a “website.” What’s not working isn’t just the website–the online user interface–but the complicated system that lies behind it. To say HHS needs to fix the “website” is like saying your car needs repairs to its steering wheel and accelerator when in fact the whole engine is junk.

Read the whole thing.

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