OpinionOpinion L.A.

Should heads roll over Obamacare glitches?

Barack ObamaAffordable Care Act (Obamacare)U.S. Congress

President Obama addressed the nation Monday about the technical problems that have roiled the Oct. 1 launch of the health insurance marketplace, Healthcare.gov, where consumers have struggled to sign up for new plans under the Affordable Care Act.

“We are confident we will get all the problems fixed,” said Obama, who also reminded us that we’re just three weeks into a six-month enrollment period.

That doesn’t excuse the blunders, which, The Times’ editorial board argues, are “mind-boggling and inexcusable, especially considering how much time the government had to prepare.” The board also warned that failure to fix the website glitches ASAP “could inflict a greater toll on the Affordable Care Act than the law’s opponents have.”

And while Obama said Monday that “nobody’s madder than me that the website’s not working as well as it should,” readers commenting on our discussion board want to see the president hold people accountable for the mistakes made.

“He should be firing people for screwing up this roll-out so bad,” says reader “geneag.” “But no one gets fired in his administration. You can sell guns to Mexican drug cartels to kill Americans and keep your job. You can use the IRS as a weapon against law-abiding citizens and keep your job. You can sacrifice a U.S. ambassador’s life and keep your job. Why [don’t] we just make him king and do away with Congress so the enlightened one can do whatever the hell he wants.”

Another reader, “Disgruntled Californian,” expressed a similar sentiment: “This is just another classic example of why we are better off when private industry manages things like this rather than the government. The government has nothing to lose and doesn’t feel the urgency to meet deadlines and implement systems correctly. If one of the system implementations fails where I work, we lose money and heads roll.”

That’s why, says “Ed Wood,” services carried out by a monopoly don’t work. “The customer normally gets terrible service when the provider is a monopoly that can’t be fired by the customer for unsatisfactory performance. If the roll-out had been managed by a private sector provider, at least the more severe failures would have been anticipated and prevented, and we wouldn’t have the outrage. The private sector is far from perfect, just like all humans, but it is amazing how a person becomes more focused on the customer experience when he has a competitor breathing down his neck.”

While it’s perfectly reasonable to be outraged over the Healthcare.gov roll-out, it hasn’t been a total failure. Take, for example, reader “Bill Kirby,” who left this encouraging comment:

“Eh ... I signed up on day one with no problems at all. My premium dropped 30% and I have a plan that is way better than the plan I had on the private insurance market. For years and years I've been buying coverage on the private market at [exorbitant] rates, subsidizing the takers who get employer-provided insurance. I'm sick of it. Thank God for Obamacare!!!”

Which, ultimately, is the point.

“We did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a website,” Obama said from the Rose Garden. “That’s not what this was about.”


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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier and Google+

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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