The Accountability Failure In The Wake Of The Obamacare Website Crash Is More Significant Than The Failure Of The Site Itself

It's nobody's fault, really...

It’s nobody’s fault, really…

More than two weeks into the heralded launch of the Affordable Care Act, the roll out of the website still qualifies as an ongoing fiasco. The Obama administration was fortunate that this was largely, though not completely, overshadowed by the silly, misconcieved and mishandled government shut-down protest by Congressional Republicans, thanks in part to a pliant and biased newsmedia that welcomed the opportunity not to focus proper attention on yet another inexcusable Administration botch. Nonetheless, it is inexcusable. A business that launched a much-ballyhooed new product this way would be out of business; the executive in charge of such a miserable failure would be toast. The fact that Obamacare is still in business after this competence and diligence betrayal speaks only to the benefits of a governmental monopoly. The fact that no executive is yet toast, however, is less explicable. Perhaps the more accurate statement is that the explanation for it is horrifying.

Two weeks of intensive round-the-clock efforts at repairs have yet to render the Obamacare enrollment website acceptably operable and user-friendly. For it’s part, HHS won’t predict  long it will take to fix it or rebuild it, which makes sense, since nobody should believe anything HHS says about the program at this point. Politico reports that the ACA’s advocates, lobbyists and industry officials are talking a months-long repair effort, and that could be a disaster. “The website that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable,” the President admitted during a Tuesday interview with KCCI television in Des Moines, Iowa. That’s nice of him, and a rare spin-free acknowledgment of reality, but what is needed is a demonstration that incompetence and failure in the executive branch has consequences, and the signature feature of the Obama years is that there are none. Accountability doesn’t exist. The President doesn’t believe in it, and apparently the American public, again bolstered by a lapdog media, doesn’t comprehend the reason it is essential. That’s the horror, and it is far more disturbing than the failure of the Obamacare site itself.

Presumably, the website and the enrollment system will work eventually. But a government to which the public casually and recklessly cedes more and more of its control over its welfare will become progressively more inefficient, incompetent, expensive, wasteful, foolish, abusive and arrogant and attract leaders and employees who are so inclined if there is not swift and effective accountability for not meeting goals, not keeping promises, not making deadlines, and perpetually blaming external factors and others for poor performance.

This is not a partisan complaint. This is Management Ethics 101, Leadership For Tyros, and Success . We have only one national government, and the culture being built from the top from the very first day has been that nobody will ever be held accountable for the failures and fiascos that occur under their oversight, and that no executive will ever be expected to accept responsibility and what naturally follows from responsibility.  No high official has been fired as a result of the I.R.S.’s partisan and illegal activities that have been thoroughly detailed (but barely reported) in the ongoing House hearings. There were no consequences at the State Department as a result of the Benghazi fiasco—other than the Libyan ambassador, that is,  who paid with his life. The TSA’s performance has been an ongoing embarrassment, with no high level accountability. Eric Holder has been responsible for multiple fiascos—Fast and Furious, the AP surveillance, the stuttering plans to prosecute terrorists in civil trials, and more—any one of which would have cost previous Attorney Generals their jobs, though most would have had the dignity and self-respect to resign before being sacked. Press Secretary Jay Carney has been dishonest and incompetent in a job that mandates trust, yet he is still in his post. Now the appointee avoiding accountability is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who has told the House committee investigating the website mess as it should, that she will not testify. Of course not. Testifying is part of  accountability, and this Administration’s preferred course is to duck, spin, deny and reject it. That is how President Obama has handled his own accountability issues as well.

Fish. Rots. Head. Down.

And, astoundingly and ominously, the media and the public allow, accept, and therefore encourage  this.

The Affordable Care Act could be the most brilliant, well-conceived, well-planned and perfectly drafted law in the history of mankind, but if it is entrusted to an inherently untrustworthy government that does not value, accept and execute accountability, it will fail.


Sources: CBS, Politico, Huffington Post

Graphic: Superbuddies

66 thoughts on “The Accountability Failure In The Wake Of The Obamacare Website Crash Is More Significant Than The Failure Of The Site Itself

  1. “The Affordable Care Act could be the most brilliant, well-conceived, well-planned and perfectly drafted law in the history of mankind. . .” Huh? Check out the recent approval rating on ‘The Affordable Care Act’. This reminds me of Barbara Tuchman’s *The March To Folly*, A meditation on the historical recurrence of governments pursuing policies evidently contrary to their own interests. In addition to the two historical events referenced in the title, discusses the Popes of the late Renaissance inciting the Protestant rebellion and Great Britain provoking the Americans to revolt.

  2. I also want to point out that not only would no private company release a product that fails this hard, if they did they would go out of business because no one would do business with them…

    But this abortion of a website is selling me something I am required – BY LAW – to purchase…

    That is why the site will never work well… Why bother? We’re forced to use it, so we will…

    Or else we’ll get fined…

    • You don’t have to use it — that’s a lie. Companies who want to attract talent will still offer health care as part of its benefits package. I don’t need to use it — it’s meant to be a stop gap for those who were unable to purchase insurancee before and those who couldn’t afford insurance and passed on exhorbitant hospital bills to the rest of us. Also, I don’t even understand Jack’s current rant. The States set up the exchange sites and some are working quite well. Others — like Maryland’s — are awful. So why does the fact that MD employed crappy contractors a reflection on Obama? As for the Act itself, perhaps it will be a spectacular failure but it was the result of a compromise. This Act could have been designed better, but that’s not how our government works. Unless everyone is on board with the idea that we should provide universal coverage, any resulting law will be filled with problems.

      • If your employer decides that paying the penalty is cheaper then insuring you, they will cancel your policy in a second.

        What is more, many that don’t have insurance don’t have it as a result of choice – they choose to not have it. Others can’t get it through their employer, and thus are, in fact, required to use the bullshit website.

        Me, for example. can get insurance through my employer.

        Then again, the policies I have seen are utter bullshit, so I won’t be using them.

        The IRS is welcome to come find me to force me to pay the penalty… I look forward to fighting it on the grounds that it didn’t start in the house, so it does not meet the constitutional requirements for a revenue item.

        • Companies (like mine) will not cancel coverage because then their best employees will go to competitors who offer these benefits. Best of luck to you Wesley — let me know how this plan works out for you….

          • In this case you are likely right…. For now. For now premiums have not increased tremendously (they have for some). But the mathematics is undeniable: more people with especially costly needs entering into an artificially less expensive system are somehow being paid for. That either means someone else WILL pay alot more (in this case healthy young people – who are now compelled to have insurance against their will; parents of healthy young people (remember that whole children up to 26 years of age rider?)

            Those who choose not to purchase will be fined (so they are still paying for someone else’s medical expenses). Inevitably, when fewer doctors want to work because they are receiving lower payments for the services they provide, finding quality care will become an exorbitant expense.

            About employers who don’t drop coverage? Either your plan will get crappier for the same cost or your plan stays the same, but someone pays. That person is the client. As long clients are footing the bill for more expensive plans, cost of living increases across the board. Cost of living increases mean less disposable income and that means fewer choices for consumers. Flagging economy.

            What about people like Ampersand who are crowing about $45 premiums or some such for something he would have paid $800 for? I’m curious if he’s really investigated the plan he can purchase. I bet the deductible is atrocious as are the copays.

            Math doesn’t lie, the system as set up must have more money flowing in or quality WILL decrease. That money doesn’t come from thin air. (Although keynesians in their drive to ruin us through debt and inflation would have us believe so).

            Of course no one is discussing free market solutions that time and time again prove to reduce price while increasing quality.

            You think “health care” (medical insurance) was expensive before?

            While on the topic it is fair to mention that our system’s expense is also due to the fact that Americans foot the bill on the vast majority of the ENTIRE world’s aggregate research an development of new procedures and products for medical treatment.

            • And I especially appreciate the joy of basing the support of health insurance on top of the young healthy people, when they’re already all that’s holding up the Social Security scheme.

              I think perhaps the single most frustrating thing for me is the fact that obamacare was billed as neccesary because of the outrageous costs for health care… and then not one aspect of the entire gargantuan bill takes any steps to address the skyocking price of healthcare, preferring instead to ‘help’ people pay those skyrocking prices. That plan really worked well with college tuition, didn’t it?

      • “Unless everyone is on board with the idea that we should provide universal coverage, any resulting law will be filled with problems.” So it is the fault of the naysayers again? Please name ANY government entity, with “everyone on board” that has been successful.

        • And I do take offense at the accusation of a “rant.” The post is about accountability. The Obama MO has been never to fire anybody, no matter what the reason or justification. That is poor, indeed criminally negligent, leadership and management. How does one point that out nicely?

          • Obama should have fired people over the IRS scandal and at the DOJ (taking all our data without a warrant). Every tech person talking about this has said that this was bound to have massive problems because you couldn’t do phased roll-outs, so it does appear rant-like to me. And I didn’t say that over your posts regarding the IRS and the DOJ.

            • A phased rollout would be entirely possible. If nothing else, just have ranges of SS numbers allowed through…

              Second, the site crashed on September 26th during a simulated load test of only a couple hundred simultaneous logins.

              That is CRIMINALLY bad.

              There is nothing about the site (or the product) that is not utterly covered in incompetence.

            • $600,000,000. That’s correct, Six…hundred…million. To prepare this. And 3 years!!

              Hiccups surely acceptable. Wholesale failure? Nope.

    ’s website, probably equally complex, cost $80,000,000. It works.

              Quit making excuses for your lord and savior.

                • $600,000,000. That’s correct, Six…hundred…million. To prepare this. And 3 years!!

                  Hiccups surely acceptable. Wholesale failure? Nope.

        ’s website, probably equally complex, cost $80,000,000. It works.

            • That’s not what “every tech person” has said. Most have said that the system was horribly designed based on what they knew it would have to do.
              If you want to read what my rants read like, the one I just posted about the lies about the website probably qualifies.

          • Yep, and some of the people got into the lifeboats when the Titanic sunk. It was “unsinkable” right? ‘The Affordable Care Act’ is a very bad design and eventually some good attorneys will put a torpedo into it.

    • People are confused.. It is quite easy to sign up for health care coverage by any number of providers in your state.. It’s applying for financial reimbursement or pretax savings thru the gov website that is hosed up at that moment..

      Very satisfied with the ACA health plans offereed and will take every advantage of it.

      • Untrue. Illinois uses, which remains unusable.

        Purchasing insurance myself from some in-state provider (because remember, I still can’t buy across state lines) is not exactly possible because democrats rejected proposals to modify the rules that govern tax credits for insurance premiums…

        And I don’t care what the premium costs are for the ACA plans – a deductible of 24k or more might as well be for a million dollars.

        I would rather save hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year (even if the plans were $100 a month I would still save almost a thousand dollars if I only pay the penalty) and when I need something major just get the care and then either negotiate down my bill (if you try to tell me it can’t be done I will know you are lying) or declare medical bankruptcy.

        And most rational people will do the exact same thing because while most folks are morons, they still act in their own best self interest.

  3. 3 separate failures here . By the way, I teach this stuff – how failures happen, how to avoid them.

    1) Procurement Failure – the prime contractor was sole-source, and an obvious dud. Unless significant money changed hands, the procurement was hopelessly incompetent. If money did change hands, hopelessly corrupt.

    2) Development Failure (developer) – it’s a steaming pile of poo, insufficiently tested, not even an Alpha release. This may have been unavoidable if the customer kept on changing scope.
    I’ve seen worse, by the way. This situation is not unusual.

    3) Development Failure (customer).- any even half-competent management plan would have had testing milestones long before now. That may not have helped the system be any better, but it should have been obvious 12 months ago that it wouldn’t be ready, and remediation efforts (such as de-scoping the release) planned and executed.

    Looking at the problem – conceptually, it doesn’t appear that challenging. But the devil’s in the details.

    I’ve seen far worse in private industry. It’s about average. Unacceptable by a long chalk, but firms get away with this because of the legal setup.

    • Yeah i didn’t understand why they didn’t do a gradual roll out, starting with the least complicated or best connected states, learn, adjust and widen…

    • Zoe, no one with half a brain expected anything at all out of Obamacare.
      It’s a joke because he is a joke.
      He’s incapable of doing the job he was elected to do and now it is time to pay the piper.
      I just hope the people who are going to suffer the most will be his supporters.

  4. If the Affordable Healthcare had been called “Medicare for All”, everyone would have wanted it. Medicare WORKS! it has been in effect since 1966 and ask anyone over 65 if they would like to give it up. It has its problems as any system will, but it works. The states that have refused medicaid are in deep trouble. I live in GA and Grady Hospital has been here since the early 1900’s and will probably have to close because of lack of funds and our current governor. It is a major trauma center for the whole state. As soon as people see that obama care is really good for them, I am sure it will never be called that again. People are voting against their best interest,

        • Republicans have tried for a decade to fix the spending, but are always accused of trying to kill grandma.

          And frankly, spending can’t be fixed because Baby Boomers are coming into the system – a massive increase is people means a massive increase in costs, unless you start heavily rationing care.

          And “eliminating fraud” sounds great, except for the fact that it has never happened in the history of any government program…

          • You forgot to dissect her “other countries have figured it out” comment. Since other countries method of “figuring it out” means higher taxes, crappier service, intrusive government, massive debt, and cuts in legitimate government responsibilities.

            • I ignored it, because other countries haven’t figured it out…

              Canada and the UK are all working on methods to roll back their pathetic, woefully systems…

              Sure, if you get a cold or break your leg you are mostly fine, but if you need lifesaving treatment for cancer or the like, you better hope they a) offer it, b) consider you worth the cost and that c) you are able to survive long enough to make it through the waiting list so you can actually get the treatment…

            • Don’t we rank somewhere in the 30’s in the world health care rankings? But I will agree with you about taxes. We can find other areas to cut spending — our imperialistic efforts might be a good place to start.

              • This has already been addressed when Ampersand made the same hopeless assertion in another post’s discussion.

                The criteria that establishes America as #33 are typically circular arguments and very subjective and therefore pretty dubious ranking standards.

        • No, Beth, they haven’t. It works until they run out of money, and as long as they have a public willing to be treated like sheep. They end up with fewer doctors, confiscatory taxes, less liberty, less freedom, and rationed care. That may be inevitable, but it’s nothing to applaud.

          • Look. Can we applaud our current system? Liberty and freedom are wonderful concepts, but only for wealthy people like me when we’re talking about health care. The wealthy will always have options – every affluent older person I know buys coverage on top of Medicare. Rationing care is a scare tactic and is often bandied about without any data to support it, but I will accept it for purposes of this argument. If you are poor or underemployed, and your choice is no care or rationed care, which do you choose? Liberty and freedom are not doing a lot of good for them right now. This argument seems always to disintegrate into a belief that the middle class (do we even have a middle class anymore?) will be worse off under the ACA then the current system. No one knows if that is true or not. And if it does turn out to be true, do we abandon a law because one class is adversely affected? And for those in the middle class that are insured, the notion that you have liberty and freedom in health care right now is absurd. You have the liberty and freedom to see someone in your plan or be bankrupt. Those are your choices. Your care already is rationed! While AM is proud not to have insurance, just about every other person (regardless of age) wants it if it is affordable.

        • This is as vague and useless as Liberal Dan’s theory to stop bullying: “Just make a rule that works”.

          Uh, Dan, and Beth, no rules do work, because the principles in effect here don’t like to work when compelled into the construct proposed.

          Response: It’s just that rules aren’t worded correctly. You aren’t saying anything with vague “just figure out a way to make it work” comments.

    • Medicare WORKS!

      It does no such thing… Not only does it not pay enough to cover actual costs for treatments, and not only did it have around double the rate of “refusals” and coverage drops than private insurance, but it has unfunded liabilities in the tens of trillions of dollars. It is fully one third of government spending, and it is only going to increase…

      If that is success, I would hate to see what you call a failure.

  5. I cannot respond to the entirety of the post, because of its large scope. However there are two points that are not fairly made:

    “It’s called “inevitable bureaucratic incompetence,” and is why the government needs to sat out of anything complicated. Like this.”

    “A business that launched a much-ballyhooed new product this way would be out of business; the executive in charge of such a miserable failure would be toast.”

    While you are correct that a business that launched such a flawed product would quickly not be a business, it is this reality that means that it almost must be the government to implement such a project. If healthcare improvements could be managed by the private sector, they would have been.

    The extreme financial risk involved leads the private sector to not attempt complicated projects like this. If the government shouldn’t attempt such projects either, should no one ever attempt complicated projects for the common good, lest they fail?

    • The government’s job is to create conditions conducive to the private sector providing goods and services in a productive and efficient manner, which it will virtually always do better than the government, and to make sure it does so fairly and honestly. Of course the private sector will do it, if they are allowed to. The government can often provide assistance where needed, but when it takes over, as in the case of ACA, the ACA mess, present and future, is what you will get.

  6. The Affordable Care Act applies to a very small minority of citizens. Those who have it at work, those on Medicare, those who pay for it themselves will see very little if any change. It has been designed with the private companies in mind and the health insurance industry loves it. In states where the governor accepted the Medicade and the health exchange idea, it is working well. It is only the national exchange, used only when the state is too stupid to do their own where the breakdown is occurring. And we can all agree that mistakes were made in the IT area.

    • “Mistakes were made?”

      That’s spin, son. The truth will set you free. A government that made big promises had three years to get a program ready and missed its own deadlines, can’t admit it, and won’t hold itself responsible. And the people ultimately responsible for the botched IT are those managing the ACA: HHS. And the one responsible for having an inept HHS is the President. And we are accountable for him. No way around it.

    • “The Affordable Care Act applies to a very small minority of citizens.”

      I’m not sure how you reconcile the individual mandate (which applies to all Americans) as only applying to a “very small minority” of citizens.

  7. Well, it seems Obama came out today to say he was “frustrated” with this and there was “no excuse” that the site was not running.
    I guess you have to wipe that egg off your face now, Jack. 😛
    Let’s face it: that is about as close to accountable as you ever have seen (and ever will see) Obama be.

  8. The site may never work. I have been following the problems and they seem more of design and dogma than just bad coding. One of the fundamental problems cited with the site is that it won’t let you see the costs of the plans. It first requires you to enter a trove of personal data to determine your eligibility and level of subsidy. To do this, it has to access your personal data from a variety of government agencies at once. A delay is any one of them causes the site to hang and possibly time-out connections.

    If it would let people browse the plans and their costs before (basically) enrolling, this wouldn’t happen. People could just browse to see the plans, level of benefits, and relative costs first. Then, only if and when they wanted to enroll, would all the rest of the info be necessary. The processing would then not need to be instantaneous and coordination with the various agencies would be easier (it could e-mail you a link when your application was processed).

    The administration doesn’t want to let this happen, however. This would let people, anyone, see the true costs of the plans and see that the ‘afffordable’ part of the AHA is laughable. They are afraid of losing political support once people can see how this will truly work out. They also don’t want their political opponents and the American people to see how much this might cost when it has to be subsidized. So much for transparency.

    It is easier just to order 2700 MRAP’s and enough military-banned ammunition to put 5 bullets in each of us.

    • 5 bullets for each of us?

      So 1.5 billion bullets? Is that the number they bought?

      They’ll need more. At current expenditure rates, they’ll only be able to kill 6,000 of us. Our trained military burns about 250,000 rounds per single enemy KIA according to some estimates.

        • These aren’t military rounds. They are hollowpoints. This is what has caused the nationwide ammunition shortage. The government is buying all for nonmilitary use.

          • I’m aware of that. You asserted they purchased enough to put 5 bullets in each of us. Your subtle implication is the intent to kill us if necessary. I used the military expenditure rate to show you how hard it is for ACTIVELY TRAINED personnel to kill one person. So generously giving that kill ratio to the non-actively trained personnel to (as you subtly imply) use against us, at best they will get only 1,200 of us with the 1.5 billion rounds purchased.

  9. Whatever happened to “The Home of the Brave”? Prediction: Kathleen Sebelius will eventually get thrown to the wolves and you know who will remain unscathed again!

  10. Here’s the deal, Jack. Even if the most ethical, efficient and enlightened government possible initiated something like Obamacare, it would have only sown the seeds of destruction. To put that much power over the individual citizen into the hands of any one bureaucracy assures this. Succeeding administrations would seize that power for their own ends- inevitably. With this administration, we have already seen this sort of thing to unprecedented levels across the board. With this weapon in their hands, the system of checks and balances irretrievably breaks down. Either Obamacare is stopped or the Constitution, as a guarantor of America’s freedoms, is rendered invalid.

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