- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

“Management expertise, operations oversight, and critical advice on additional enrollment channels, field operations, marketing and communications,” says Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in describing the new job of one Kurt Delbene, who steps up Wednesday — mallet and stethoscope in hand — as the official Obamacare sign-up site repairman. Indeed, HealthCare.gov is his fixer-upper, for better or worse. It’s complicated. There’s redundancy and capacity plus interface and best practices involved. So look out now.

Kurt will execute the plan in place, so that we can ensure the site’s performance is strong through the close of open enrollment on March 31, 2014. This will include a focus on increasing system stability, redundancy and capacity, and building on improvements to the user interface, while continuing to prioritize security and privacy issues in line with industry best practices,” Mrs. Sebelius advises.

Yes, well. There are also some numbers. EnrollMaven.com, a new watchdog website that is tracking enrollment figures from state to state based on public sources, reveals that an estimated 440,835 people have actually enrolled in the new healthcare program.

“Early returns suggest that Obamacare-qualified health plan enrollment by March 31st will not come anywhere near the administration’s 7 million goal, and it can be anticipated that the much smaller than expected number of enrollees will disproportionately come from the ranks of older and sicker people who have the strongest incentive to sign-up,” the site notes. “If trends hold, odds will thus increase that the dire predictions of the premium death spiral will come to fruition — possibly even sooner and more dramatically than many experts thought. Time will tell.”

A MATTER OF FAITH

“It appears that the nation’s largest Catholic health care providers have sold their collective souls to the devil, negotiating behind the scenes with the administration to support and promote Obamacare — despite its contraceptive mandate — in exchange for money,” says Judicial Watch.

The watchdog group has obtained Department of Health and Human Services records that show “ardent support for Obamacare in propaganda” from the Catholic Health Association of the United States, resulting in subsequent federal “navigator grants” to promote the health care law, granted to the association’s affiliates, Via Christi Health and Ascension Health.

“The discovery of this controversial arrangement comes as major Catholic institutions, such as the University of Notre Dame as well as dozens of Catholic dioceses, sue the administration over the contraceptive mandate,” Judicial Watch says, citing “a fawning letter from the president of Via Christi, Kevin Conlin, to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius confirming his support for Obamacare.”

The watchdog also points out, “We also know that both Via Christi and Ascension have benefited for endorsing the president’s hostile takeover of the nation’s health care system. The Catholic health care affiliates received HHS grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to enroll people in Obamacare. One of the grants was for $232,406 and the other for $165,683, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.”

LET THE CHATTING BEGIN

“Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Get talking about health insurance.”

— The newest public advice for navigating the Affordable Care Act from Organizing for Action, the 15 million-member grass roots group that grew out of President Obama’s re-election campaign. The much circulated advice is accompanied by a cozy photo of a bespectacled hipster in plaid jammies.

“So this is whoBarack Obama views as his constituency. Oh boy,” commented RedState founder Erick Erickson in a Twitter tweet.

“Why would anyone want to talk with a dude wearing Rachel Maddow glasses and a red-checkered onesie?” asks Ben Shapiro, editor in chief of Breitbart.com, also in a tweet.

AMERICA’S GIGANTIC WORLD AUDIENCE

Consider the reach of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Mart, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks’ Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa — all U.S. produced, and all under the umbrella of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, an independent federal agency.

The audience numbers are, well, staggering. The global media networks reached an estimated 206 million people per week in 2013, including large audiences in countries that are strategically critical for U.S. foreign policy, the agency says. The total is up by 31 million since last year, incidentally.

Consider that the typical Super Bowl viewership is around 110 million. Fox News draws in about 1.8 million viewers a night.

“Our journalists produce high-quality programming, and we’re finding fresh ways to innovate in content delivery. This makes it possible for the networks supported by the BBG to reach these record-breaking audiences,” said Jeff Shell, chairman of the broadcast agency.

“We help to nurture and sustain free, open, democratic societies by supporting free press and free expression, and by conveying the American democratic experience to countries where the media are not free,” he adds.

A short aside here: Way to go, and thanks.

CHRISTIEFIED

It’s complicated but the numbers ring true: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie now leads Hillary Rodham Clinton by 45 to 40 percent in an early bird presidential matchup among Iowa voters. More women back Mrs. Clinton, but more men and independents back Mr. Christie by wide margins, all according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

In July, a similar survey found the pair tied, 41 to 41 percent.

The change, says pollster Peter Brown, “reflects a general improvement for Republicans, almost certainly related to the controversy over Obamacare.”

BUMPER PATROL

“Too much Pluribus, not enough Unum.”

Bumper sticker spotted in Annapolis, Md.

POLL DU JOUR

64 parent of Americans say the Obamacare sign-up site is not working; 23 percent say it is “working as it should.”

55 percent say the health insurance start-up problems are a sign of “broader problems”; 36 percent say it is an “isolated incident.”

48 percent trust Republicans in Congress to find the “right balance” between cutting and spending in the federal government; 40 percent trust President Obama.

46 percent trust Mr. Obama to “protect the middle class”; 40 percent trust Republicans in Congress.

45 percent trust the Republicans to handle the economy; 41 percent trust Mr. Obama.

44 percent say the GOP has “better ideas” about the size and scope of federal government”; 43 percent say Mr. Obama has better ideas.

42 percent trust Mr. Obama to implement the Affordable Care Act; 37 percent trust Republicans.

41 percent trust Mr. Obama to cope with the “main problems” of the nation; 41 percent trust Republicans.

Source: A Washington Post/ABC News poll of 1,055 U.S. adults conducted Dec. 12-15.

Querulous complaints, brusque overviews to jharper@washingtontimes.com.