One of the things for which I’m thankful this Thanksgiving is that I’m not Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
That Ms. Sebelius is still HHS secretary is remarkable. If they’d presided over a fiasco like the Obamacare rollout, the CEO of every corporation anywhere in the world would have been fired long ago.
Ms. Sebelius is fortunate she works in government, where there is no accountability.
And in the Obama administration, where there is no integrity.
Earlier this month, TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau was convicted of fraud for making health claims less obviously false than those Ms. Sebelius and her boss have made for Obamacare. Mr. Trudeau has been fined $37.5 million and could spend years in prison.
Ms. Sebelius won’t be joining Mr. Trudeau in his cell, as she would if there were justice in this world. But her luck may be running out.
She was in Miami last week to put more lipstick on the pig. At a photo-op with Obamacare “navigators” — who might, she acknowledged, be felons who could steal your identity because there is no federal screening procedure — Ms. Sebelius sought to demonstrate how easy it is to sign up for Obamacare. But the Healthcare.gov web site crashed. Again.
Panicky Democrats warned the White House last week that if Healthcare.gov isn’t fixed by Nov. 30, as President Obama promised, they may jump ship.
“If the website is not up, [Democrats who must run next year] are going to start freaking out even more,” a Democrat staffer told The Hill newspaper.
It won’t be. Henry Chao, the top IT manager for Obamacare, told the House Energy & Commerce committee last week that 30 percent to 40 percent of the computer infrastructure has yet to be built. Among the unbuilt parts is the payment system.
“That’s like setting up an online bank without setting up a way to make deposits,” an industry source told CNBC.
This can’t be fixed before late January at the earliest, say industry experts. To have insurance coverage Jan. 1, the first premium must be paid by Dec. 15.
So administration officials are “walking back” the president’s promise.
“The 30th of November is not a magic go, no-go date,” Ms. Sebelius says now.
Breathing new life into the old saw, “close enough for government work,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that if Healthcare.gov works 80 percent of the time, the administration will consider it fixed.
“In what other line of work is 20 percent failure considered a success?” asked Ron Fournier of the National Journal. “If one out of every five meals served by a restaurant is inedible, the joint goes out of business.”
Word games and goalpost moving won’t quell panic in the caucus, predicted Democrat strategist Chris Kofinis, a former Senate aide.
“If you’re not going to meet the deadline, you have to come out there and say why,” he said. “If you keep playing the spin game, it only ends up blowing up in your face.”
In a CBS poll last week, 61 percent of respondents disapproved of Obamacare, but they favored trying to fix it over repeal, 48 percent to 43 percent.
When it becomes clear that the president’s pledge to have Healthcare.gov up and running by Nov. 30 was just his latest “incorrect promise” (to employ the current New York Times euphemism for “bald-faced lie”), the repeal number will climb.
Already Obamacare has caused breathtaking changes in public attitudes. In a Gallup poll in 2006, 69 percent of respondents said it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure Americans have health care coverage. Only 42 percent said that in a Gallup poll last week. In another poll last week, 58 percent said they trust Republicans more on health care.
Attitude adjustment has just begun:
• The website “glitches” mean millions more will be without health insurance in January. Among them there will be too many tragic stories for the news media to ignore.
• Most Americans don’t know yet that “you can keep your doctor” was another “incorrect promise.” They will soon. The “doc shock” has begun.
• The tsunami of policy cancellations comes next year, when Obamacare forces small businesses to cancel their policies.
No wonder Democrats are terrified.
Ms. Sebelius and Mr. Obama are said to be close. But when the really big (stuff) hits the fan, the president will need a scapegoat, because nothing is ever his fault. Mene mene tekel upharsin.
Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Post-Gazette (firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1476).