Obama missed a golden opportunity

10/13/2013 02:32:00 PM
The New York Times and Slate have posts detailing the IT troubles of the new federal healthcare exchanges set up by Obamacare. They tell a story of more than just glitches. They don't necessarily contradict the administration's claim that these are all problems of scale--15 million people have visited healthcare.gov in a few days time--but they do suggest that there are several human failures at the heart of all this. Government agencies in charge never had the IT resources to do what they were supposed to; separate contractors were hired to manage the back-end servers versus the front-end interactive website, with inadequate coordination between the two; there were too many managers relative to programmers, yet there was no task master with both accountability and authority in charge of the whole thing.

At the very least, it's fair to say that healthcare.gov was not yet ready to see the light of day. And that makes me wonder if Obama missed a golden opportunity. After all, the exchanges opened on October 1st, the same day the government shutdown. Perhaps Obama, rather than deal with both a faulty exchange and a government shutdown, could have negotiated with Boehner to pass a continuing resolution and debt ceiling, with a rider delaying Obamacare. That would have bought time to work out the kinks in the exchanges.

Of course, maybe Obama didn't really miss anything here, because the "negotiations" with Boehner have proven ephemeral--Boehner has continuously moved the goalposts, suggesting that a shutdown, not a negotiation, is what he really wanted.

On the other hand, I'm not totally sure that delaying the opening of the exchanges would do much good. Fixing glitches as they happen isn't any harder than trying to anticipate what glitches might happen. Yeah, this is frustrating for many people, but in some respects, having to wait a few hours, or even a few days, to create an account on healthcare.gov is no worse than having to wait through an Obamacare delay.