The Affordable Care Act roll-out on October 1st is “one of the biggest IT disasters in government history,” Representative Joseph Pitts (R-PA) told four vendors testifying before the House Oversight Committee about what went so horribly wrong with the Healthcare.gov website. Multiple vendors each seemed confident in assuring legislators that separately, each system worked. But “no beta end to end testing” was completed until just two weeks before the roll-out date of October 1st! In spite of a lot of double speak and non answers, an official high up in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) apparently offered this statement about ObamaCare enrollees and website plans to a HealthCare.gov vendor: “YOU’LL GET FINAL QUOTES FOR SPECIFIC PLANS BASED ON YOUR INCOME AND HOUSEHOLD AFTER YOU COMPLETE A MARKETPLACE APPLICATION.”
This website monkey wrench appears to have been a political decision thrown in at the last minute to hide the sticker shock of premium costs from average Americans faced with the very cruel Hobson’s choice of either signing up for the ACA or facing fines. But no one being questioned would own up to who originated this phrase. And senior CGI Vice President Cheryl Campbell, a main ACA vendor, refused to answer a direct question to identify “who made this policy decision.” Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa had asked by letter if “political considerations motivated the decision to disable anonymous browsing.” “CMS made a decision to turn off the browseable (sic) website to hide the true cost from the American people,” said a legislator.
But after listening to over four hours of testimony, what really bothers me is that the ACA puts the very private, very sensitive personal and medical information about average Americans and their family members at the disposal of anonymous bureaucrats. A very contentious line of questioning by Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) brought out this second very damning phrase being hidden from people trying to register: “YOU [applicants] HAVE NO REASONABLE EXPECTATION OF PRIVACY STORED ON THIS SYSTEM.” In order to continue, you have to accept that you can have no expectation of privacy, repeated Rep. Barton, clearly upset by invasion-of-privacy issues the ACA presents. He pointed out that this language is “hidden” from potential applicants.
Even as Democrat legislators dismiss violations of the HIPPA Act, too many questions still remain due to the simple fact that the ACA roll-out has been such an abysmal failure. Can we trust IRS bureaucrats, CMS operatives, and ACA employees to make secure our sensitive medical records? Can we be assured that hackers won’t help themselves to our data? We read every day how extensively the US government intrudes into our personal affairs. Even German Chancellor Merkel called the White House this week, irate that the Obama Regime has been spying on her!
Texas Representative Ralph Hall pointed out that the US Constitution only contains 4,500 words, while the ACA contains 11,588,500 words! “What do you want me to tell Americans who face IRS fines for healthcare they can not afford from a website that can’t even get them registered?” he asked. Someone aged 49 faces paying the same premium as a 27 year old, while someone in his late 60s pays the same as someone who just turned 50? Here is just another example of the unfairness of Obamacare. Mike Rogers (R-MI) said “I’m shocked,” as he tried to find out why in the last two weeks before roll-out, new codes were introduced, thus causing new cyber risks and consequences. In fact, only during the final two weeks in September was integrated end-to-end testing even performed, a failure that shows that too little was done to make ACA ready (and done too late)!
No vendor would testify as to how many Americans have registered to date. Legislators asked why Amazon doesn’t crash right before Christmas and why Pro Flowers can handle huge numbers of customers right before Valentine’s Day. Yet the public sector effort wasn’t up to its mission in spite of nearly half a billion taxpayer dollars being infused into it.
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) concluded that the ACA cannot be fixed. He cited inadequate judgment calls; a lack of integration and testing summary reports as per contract; and nonexistent operational readiness, end-to-end testing, and vendor capabilities. He questioned whether CMS had simply ignored any recommendation that may have been made. Even though George Linares is named as the Acting CMS Chief Technology Officer, his name never came up in the first hearing. The Acting Deputy Director, Henry Chao, only was obliquely mentioned by vendors. CGI VP Campbell admitted to having spoken with CMS officials before showing up to testify. After the hearing, a “Tweeter” told C-SPAN: “The Republicans will be right all along when no one signs up for healthcare.” Another commenter said “It’s just not right what’s going on. . .they’ve got everyone nervous!”
Photo credit: DerFussi (Creative Commons)