Will it drive anemic support for the law even further into the ground?
Despite repeated warnings, highlighted by Democrat Sen. Max Baucus's (D-MT) prediction last April of “a huge train wreck coming down” if ObamaCare wasn't implemented correctly, that train wreck is exactly what has come to pass. Furthermore, there are already signs that the unpopular law is becoming more unpopular in the process.
Nonetheless, the Obama administration defended the chaotic start to the program, contending that the innumerable technical breakdowns associated with the program's websites were caused by heavy traffic, as opposed to flaws in the design of the system. That assertion stretches credulity: the administration has had three years to prepare for a law that requires virtually every adult in America to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Still, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) urged consumers who logged on to the government website to remain patient if a "holding page" pops up, warning that any attempt to refresh the page, or navigate away from it, would cost them their place in line.
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius likened the "glitches" to the rollout of an iPhone upgrade, an ObamaCare promotion strategy that several administration officials have presented to the media. “Hopefully (the public will) give us the same slack they give Apple,” she said. “If there’s not quite the operational excellence right away, we’ll continue to press for that.” Again, owning an iPhone is optional. Buying health insurance or paying a fine is mandatory.
On Tuesday, President Obama offered up another plank of his administration's strategy regarding the rocky implementation of his signature legislation. After using the same Apple rollout comparison as Sebelius, the president contended that interest in the program was unexpectedly high. "This demand exceeds anything we expected," he said. "That gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of people around the country."
The Associated Press parroted that contention, insisting that the same chaotic conditions persisting on day two of the rollout "were good news for President Barack Obama and supporters of his signature domestic policy achievement because the holdups showed what appeared to be exceptionally high interest in the overhauled insurance system."
Interest is one thing. Actual enrollment is quite another. According to the Daily Mail, the overall enrollment rates of those visiting the healthcare websites set up by the states is less than one percent. In California, the state with a reputation for being the bluest in the nation, the signup rate was 0.58 per cent. The Democrat strongholds of New York and Connecticut had signup rates of 0.32 percent and 0.59 percent, respectively. States seeing greater levels of enrollment included Illinois at 1.7 percent, and Rhode Island at 2.3 percent. In Vermont and the District of Columbia, the percentages were 6 percent and 28 percent respectively, but those numbers are somewhat deceiving because they tabulated how many people established user accounts, rather than completed applications.
All of the above assumes the Daily Mail's report is accurate. It may not be. According to local TV station KUSI-CA, the California numbers are completely bogus. They announced that no one had enrolled in the plan as of late Tuesday. Approximately 500,000 people visited the Covered California website, but only 7,100 people submitted applications. “Nobody is actually enrolled yet, because the people behind the scenes are not trained,” said the news anchor.
WSMV in Tennessee also announced they couldn't find a single person who had signed up for ObamaCare. "We're hearing not a single person locally has been successful getting through to the new health insurance exchange," said a local reporter. "It seems to be a problem especially in states like Tennessee, where the state opted out and left it up to the federal government to run what is essentially an online shopping site."
Even the left-leaning Washington Post noted that "about a dozen or so reporters would like to speak with you" if you were someone who actually purchased ObamaCare. "We just need to find you first," the paper admitted.
The popularity of the plan is belied by another reality as well. There are ten states in the nation--California, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina and Wisconsin--where thousands of Americans will see their existing healthcare plans eliminated. Thus, ObamaCare's "popularity" may amount to nothing more than the mandated insurance policy of last resort. Many of the insurance carriers who had previously provided coverage in those states opted out of doing so. The two most prevalent reasons cited for the withdrawals were the inability of the companies to keep their plans financially viable, and the vast complexity of ObamaCare's regulatory apparatus.
That regulatory apparatus is nothing short of staggering. As of now, 10,535 pages of final Obamacare regulations have been published in the Federal Register, including 110 final regulations that deal solely with the bill’s implementation.
CNS News attempted to ask three Democrat officials if they had read the regulations. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) refused to answer. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) asked, “Is it important that I read it?” before angrily dismissing the inquiry as a "propaganda question." Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) contended that "we have read the regulations of interest, the ones, the areas that we are involved with, we’ve had inquiries about, we have read those regulations."
Thus like ObamaCare itself, Americans will once again be forced to endure the overbearing hubris of Democrats who believe that learning the details of how these regulations affect their constituents is beneath their dignity.
On the other hand, American people's dignity may already be at risk. A Minnesota insurance broker searching for information regarding the implementation of Obamacare instead received a document containing the names, Social Security numbers and other personal information belonging to more than 2,400 his fellow Minnesotans. “The more I thought about it, the more troubled I was,” said insurance agent Jim Koester. “What if this had fallen into the wrong hands? It’s scary."
It gets scarier. An ABC News report reveals that even before the law was implemented, scam artists posing as government representatives conned Americans into giving up personal information over the phone. It further noted the government itself was "playing a dangerous game of chicken" with regard to keeping information safe due in large part to the same kind of "glitches" the administration is dismissing as insignificant in the signup process.
That lax attitude also extends to the administration's Navigator program. The administration spent $67 million signing up 100 organizations to provide navigators for the signup process, even as it ignored letters from Congressmen and state attorneys general critical of the program's privacy standards. Moreover, the navigators themselves won't be required to pass background checks, obtain a license or carry liability insurance. Nor does the program hold anyone liable for data security breaches. As the website Legal Insurrection contends, such weak oversight could result in another Edward Snowden-like security breach, exposing millions of Americans' personal health information to whoever wishes to access it.
Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation echoes those concerns, noting that the provision in ObamaCare requiring medical providers to switch from paper patient charts to electronic records is outpacing the implementation of security measures that would prevent pharmaceutical companies and other non-medical entities from using the information for commercial purposes. “Like any other kind of customer data, it gets bought and sold and you have no idea where it went," Tien said.
Steve Vinsik, a vice president and cyber security expert with Unisys, warns that the ability to hack patient records runs the risk of taking identity fraud to entirely different level. "If my credit card information is compromised, I can get a new credit card and change that information," he said. "I can't change my Social Security number. I can't change my birth date or medical history."
Nor can the Obama administration change the reality that ObamaCare remains as unpopular as ever. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken the day before the exchanges opened revealed that 44 percent of respondents think the law is a bad idea, while only 31 percent like it. When asked if the law will have a negative or positive impact on the country's health-care system, negative impact prevailed by a 45 percent to 23 percent margin.
Yet amidst all the chaos and uncertainty, a bit of unintentional humor came to light as well. It seems that the letter substitutions for the official number HHS wants Americans to dial when seeking a healthcare provider spells 1-800-F**KYO.
Unfortunately, when the laughter dies down, that may be American's ultimate assessment of a healthcare law that has all the earmarks of another giant and unaffordable bureaucratic nightmare. A nightmare in which the number of uninsured Americans never falls below 30 million over the next decade, according to the CBO. Nothing says train wreck better than that.
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