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EDITORIAL: Embarrassing Obama

His expensive health care scheme is not ready for prime time

- - Thursday, October 10, 2013

President Obama drew a red line, you might say, to protect Obamacare. Now the red ink, blood or whatever, has spread to his face. HealthCare.gov, the website designed to deliver on his promise to simplify health care, is a disaster, and the administration insists the disaster must continue. "The government is now shut down," Mr. Obama boasted early last week, "but the Affordable Care Act is still open for business." But it's not, and no one knows this better than the president himself.

Despite spending $634 million to design and build the national health exchange website, all that just about everyone who tries to log in to learn what Obamacare is about gets is a message such as: "Important: Your account couldn't be created at this time. The system is unavailable." The House Energy and Commerce Committee has asked Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, to explain how the money was spent and why the website isn't working more than a week after launch.

Private industry would never tolerate such incompetence. For example, the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, the wildly popular video game, sold 11.2 million copies within 24 hours, reaching the $1 billion revenue mark faster than any previous entertainment offering. Though the game suffered the usual bugs, glitches and overloaded servers when the online service opened Oct. 1, the same day the Obamacare exchanges opened, the publisher of Grand Theft Auto had an incentive to work around the clock to fix it. Big money was at stake. The service was quickly put aright. There's no evidence that more than a handful of customers have actually succeeded in signing up for Obamacare.

The website meltdown makes the case that Obamacare isn't ready for prime time and should be delayed for a year. With time, and a few hundred million more dollars, the Obamacare website will eventually be made workable. If not this year, maybe the next. But America's health system is far too important to entrust to bureaucrats who lack a persuasive incentive to get the job done right.

The Internal Revenue Service is the primary enforcer of Obamacare, and the IRS has proved that it can't be trusted with sensitive taxpayer information. Sarah Ingram Hall, in charge of Obamacare enforcement, was the chief of the IRS department when it targeted conservative and religious nonprofit groups. She appeared before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday to explain why she sent several emails to political appointees at the White House. She said she couldn't remember. The IRS blacked out parts of the emails containing sensitive political information that cannot be legally shared outside the IRS. The agency refused to provide copies that were not blacked out to congressional investigators.

"So it was OK for the White House to get it," said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, but it's not OK for us to get it. And Americans are supposed to rest assured that the IRS will treat their personal information in a confidential fashion when they are forced to sign up by the Affordable Care Act. Unbelievable."

Bureaucrats with a grudge will soon have a wealth of information on ordinary Americans at their fingertips. Names, addresses, Social Security numbers, medical histories and financial data will be stored on Obamacare servers. Who would believe that an agency that can't run a functional website will provide adequate security?

The government should never have got this information. Medical histories should only be shared by patient and doctor. The legacy of Obamacare is likely to be the destruction of the privacy rights that were once a birthright of Americans.