EDITORIAL: The Obamacare taxi squad

Second-rate service is built into the system

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The Obama administration now concedes that the taxpayers didn’t get first-rate service for the website the administration spent $634 million to build. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services who was the construction foreman, tells CNN that the government contractors will now send their “A-Team” in a “tech surge” to fix things. Where has the A-Team been for the past three years? Why did we get only the taxi squad? The implementation for Obamacare was clearly an afterthought for a half-baked health care scheme.

A congressional committee on Thursday grilled the companies involved in the disaster, and the testimony revealed that the White House is responsible for the disaster. Anyone trying to log on to the website still gets inscrutable error messages, hesitations and timeouts. We’re just beginning to learn why.

Two weeks before healthcare.gov went live, administration officials realized that making rate information readily available would prove the critics were right that Obamacare would make health care more expensive. “Those real costs,” says Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, “the true costs, would be visible to the American people.” So contractors were told to conceal the rates behind a registration wall.

CGI Federal, the prime contractor, originally designed the website to enable users to see rates without signing up. That can be reversed. “If given instruction by [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services], we would be glad to turn [that feature] on,” says CGI vice president Cheryl Campbell.

The last-minute change meant there wouldn’t be time to test the website to be sure it would function, but the White House apparently didn’t care. The administration was only interested in the victory of steamrolling Republican opposition. Delay was unthinkable.

This is precisely why government must never be allowed to meddle in a private industry such as health care. The free market invariably selects the most efficient suppliers of a given product because consumers can be counted on to spend their own money wisely. Government, by contrast, relies on a procurement system dominated by cronyism. This won’t surprise anyone who visits the Department of Motor Vehicles or the post office, where a “positive customer experience” is never high on the list of priorities.

President Obama’s health care takeover is about buying his party an advantage for the 2014 and 2016 elections. Whether healthcare.gov actually works or whether Obamacare wrecks the economy is only of secondary importance. What matters is dishing out favors to friends and buying votes, hence “free” abortions, “free” condoms and other birth-control devices.

These advantages will cost far beyond the trillion dollars that will be spent on Obamacare. It’s also costing jobs. In its latest review of economic conditions, the Federal Reserve reports that businesses “were cautious to expand payrolls, citing uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and fiscal policy more generally.”

Everything about this slapdash scheme has created confusion, perplexity and uncertainty. Mrs. Sebelius says she can’t say when the Obamacare website will be back online, though the clock is ticking toward the day when individual consumers will be fined for failing to sign up for an Obama-approved insurance plan. Mrs. Sebelius is bravely taking the blame for the disaster that rightly belongs to the president. A delay in the individual mandate seems inevitable, which is what Republicans have been saying all along.

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