by Ralph Benko
This columnist is one of the, reportedly, millions whose health insurance (much of good quality and affordable) has fallen prey to an Obamacare “Death Panel.” My insurance policy of long standing, apparently, will disappear on January 1. My efforts to replace it, in the Exchange, have been thwarted by an epic fail of the Obamacare system.
Many repeated efforts to access the new exchange have been repulsed by technical glitches. (Maryland’s Navigators, let it be said, are knowledgeable, polite, and offer, as best as possible within the constraints of a thoroughly broken system, excellent customer service.) All efforts to get in and apply for replacement coverage have been repulsed.
To you, Mr. President, this is may be an annoying detail. To me, it is, well, a contingent death sentence. This makes me unhappy. How could you have arranged to zero out my health insurance before making it possible for me to reapply for replacement coverage? Mine, and that of millions of other innocent victims?
A single columnist (especially a conservative and, gasp!, Republican one) may be, in your view, Mr. President, expendable in the pursuit of the Greater Good. It feels different from this perspective. And this perspective is shared by millions.
It would have been merely irksome to have to end up paying 50%, or more, more for (possibly superior) coverage. To have one’s life put at risk by cockeyed officious elitists in positions of power?
Not in a good way.
Some of the president’s most devoted apologists can be relied upon, of course, to blame the Republicans for Obamacare’s failure. That, however, is an argument that does not fool Juicebox Hero, and usually reliable Obama apologist, Ezra Klein.
Klein did an autopsy of this epic fail in Bloomberg/Businessweek: How the iPod President Crashed: Obama’s Broken Technology Promise. It possibly is the most incisive review of the debacle yet to appear. An excerpt (and the whole is well worth reading):
The saga of healthcare.gov has been a symphony of government inefficiency. The effort, directly overseen by the IT department of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, involved no fewer than 55 contractors. The process was thick with lawyers and political interference. In violation of current best practices in the software world, the code was kept almost entirely secret; other engineers weren’t able to point out its flaws, and it wasn’t tested rigorously enough. The Obama administration has been assailed for not calling in Silicon Valley’s top minds to collaborate, but that misses the fundamental problem: The best coders in the Valley would’ve never agreed to work under such deadening, unpleasant conditions. … Obamacare’s coverage expansion sits atop a complex digital infrastructure, and that infrastructure is failing.
Klein trenchantly relays mordant observations of what really caused the epic fail. Reflecting on the British National Health Service’s even more epic fail ($10 billion and unsalvageable), Klein quotes from his UK sources:
In an editorial at the time, the liberal Guardian newspaper declared, “The government is an inept purchaser of private services: indecisive, ponderous, overambitious, and wasteful. Mass centralisation does not reduce costs, but it kills flexibility.”
“This is a hard problem for government,” [technologist Mike] Bracken [who, let this columnist note, reportedly did a highly successful redo of the NHS’s epic fail] says, “because it’s not really a technology problem. It’s a self-image problem. Government constructs its self-image in terms of size. It thinks of itself as huge and big. I’ve been in D.C. and seen your buildings. They’re very big! The harsh truth for governments all over the world is that many digital public services could be developed at a fraction of the size of nondigital services, and they can be created by very small teams of people in an open way.”
It’s a cultural, not technological, breakdown. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher, speaking before Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs about another manifestation of runaway technocracy — quantitative easing and Dodd-Frank — puts the underlying problem into really plain English, quoting New York Times columnist David Brooks, extolling Irving Kristol:
In writing a loving homage to Kristol when he died, David Brooks of the New York Times summarized the basis for Kristol’s epiphany in more colorful language. “The elemental Jewish commandment” in the working-class neighborhood where Kristol grew up was: “Don’t be a schmuck. Don’t fall for fantastical notions that have nothing to do with the way people really are.”
“Don’t fall for fantastical notions that have nothing to do with the way people really are” is advice which President Obama, and Secretary Sebelius, would have done well to have heeded in fomenting this naïve initiative.
Making health coverage affordable and available is very much the right thing.
It is not enough to do the right thing.
It is imperative, also, to do the thing right.
The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
What might an effective reform, one truly making health care more available and affordable, have looked like? Consider Texas.
According to a recent personal communication with Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst (with whom this columnist has a professional association), Texas steadily was losing physicians. The Lone Star State enacted a law to muzzle its roving packs of feral trial lawyers.
Medical malpractice premiums plummeted, often by as much as 75%. Physicians began to flock to Texas. Their cost structure dramatically reduced, over 30,000 new doctors have moved in. Supply went way up.
Health care is there becoming more available and affordable.
Progressives have a really hard time grasping the fact that the price of everything, which includes medical services, is determined by two — and only two — factors: supply and demand. Efforts to dictate prices simply leads to shortages and surpluses.
The Russians eventually figured this out and unplugged the Soviet Union. Word apparently has not yet reached Pyongyang … or many Democratic elected officials. Perhaps it never will. Perhaps we voters simply will have to fire a huge number of these knuckleheads….
If the federal government wishes to make medical services more affordable it can help create a climate conducive to the generation of more doctors … or more productive doctors … or both. Not, please God, through subsidies! Do it organically, by allowing the free market to work its magic.
Supply and demand determine price. This, like gravity, is a law of nature. Truly it, like gravity, cannot be ignored with impunity. More supply, stable demand, equals lower prices. As for lowering demand? The way the federal government has helped unleash an obesity epidemic, in part through farm subsidies, leaves one incredulous about its ability to implement policy to reduce demand for health services.
Progressives are as beautiful as Pandora. Pandora, as Hesiod recorded, was the “All-gifted.” The progressive agenda is as dangerous as her box (actually, urn). My beautiful progressives, like Pandora before them, inevitably open the box … in which were, and are, secreted calamities to plague mankind.
The one residue that remained, in Pandora’s box, after the woes escaped, was Hope. The original Obama campaign slogan.
It begins to appear that the Republicans were right to oppose Obamacare as a disaster waiting to happen. Progressive tools, panders and shills relentlessly accused the GOP of hard-heartedness for opposing Obamacare. The Republicans remained unequivocal in warning that it would push Americans out of the frying pan into the fire.
Now that the GOP hysterics have abandoned the suicidal tactic of government shutdown we mere voters can pay attention to what matters. Such as: the government stripping millions of us of health insurance.
The Republicans’ warnings were mocked by progressives. Conservative prophesies of doom were received much as were those of Cassandra. Cassandra had been cursed by Apollo to be right in her prophecies … and disbelieved. Unlike the inexorable fate of Troy to be sacked, of which Cassandra warned, however, it is not too late for America.
Obamacare’s chickens now come home to roost. That is likely to give powerful credibility to the McConnell Strategy: turning the 2014 Senate and Congressional elections into, in effect, a plebiscite on Obamacare. The government shutdown recedes into history. Obamacare’s failures grow only more vivid.
Republicans did all in their power (and, briefly, overreached) to avert this catastrophe. Now we mere voters will have the opportunity to decide the future. If it turns out to be as bad as it looks, here is a bold prediction: we mere voters will sweep out those who opened the Pandora’s box of Obamacare.
Mr. President? I would like to live long enough to see how this turns out.
Perhaps in your eyes my wish is selfish.
(Progressives expect selfishness from conservative Republicans.)
Still. If I may have a last word with you, Sir?
As David Brooks said: “Don’t fall for fantastical notions that have nothing to do with the way people really are.”