Recently, I was talking to a congressional Democrat who was fully confident that Obamacare would cease to be an effective Republican issue by November 2014. Plenty of Democrats agree; plenty of Republicans, too. This was something Ted Cruz kept worrying about, into live mics—September 2013 was the “last chance” to defund Obamacare because the law would become more popular once exchanges started and subsidies started flowing like cheap wine at your cousin Andre’s wedding reception.
What worried this Democrat? A healthcare.gov imbroglio lasting more than a few weeks. If that was all it took? Fine. If it took months, rolling into 2014? Well. That was a problem that reset Democratic gains from the shutdown.
I had this in mind when I read the transcript of CNN’s interview of Kathleen Sebelius, conducted by Sanjay Gupta, who was considered as the Obama administration’s surgeon general. (He passed because CNN–>executive branch is a serious pay cut.) Several times Sebelius hinted at how damn long it would take for the Best and Brightest coders to dig out.*
1) “If we had an ideal situation and could have built the product in, you know, a five-year period of time, we probably would have taken five years. But we didn’t have five years.”
2) “The issue is, will people be able to sign up for affordable health care in the six months’ open enrollment period?”
3) “We anticipated at the outset that everyone would never use the website. That needs to be part of the opportunity.”
That last answer borders on gibberish, but I guess the secretary is trying to say she expected more people to call in? To sign up via in-person navigators? Either way, she’s saying that the problems were forseeable, and that they’ll last. She’s dug in for a couple weeks of battering from House Republicans. On that, you should read Brian Beutler to understand why Republicans prefer to focus on healthcare.gov than the systems in states that actually built exchanges.
*4) When did “the Best and the Brightest” become acceptable as an actual term for smart people who could fix things? I thought it became darkly ironic decades ago.