Viewpoints: 'Unforced error' on marketplace website raises questions about administration's handling of health issues; Obama's 'desperate sales pitch;' GOP's faux concerns for exchanges

USA Today: Healthcare.Gov Feeds Doubts About Rollout: Our View
Anyone who supports the plan to cover Americans who couldn't get health insurance has to hope the administration quickly gets it right. But you can't help but wonder: Where was all this frantic effort in the three-and-a-half years from the time Obama signed the health law to the day the exchanges opened on Oct. 1? Because that might have helped avoid the unforced error that is raising doubts about the administration's ability to manage other pieces of the complex law (10/21).

USA Today: White House: Health Law's More Than A Website
On Oct. 1, the Affordable Care Act's Marketplace -- a new way to apply for, browse and buy affordable health insurance plans -- opened for business. One way to buy these plans in many states is a new website, As you've probably heard, it's not working as well as it's supposed to just yet. As President Obama said Monday, that's inexcusable. And he's fully focused on fixing the problem as soon as possible. But it's important to remember that the Affordable Care Act is much more than a website. Most Americans already have health insurance and won't need the Marketplace at all. Because of this law, they already have an array of new benefits and protections: Young people can stay on their parents' plans, seniors have new discounts on their prescriptions, and preventive care, such as mammograms and birth control, are free (Chris Jennings, 10/21).

Bloomberg: The President's Anger Doesn't Fix Obamacare
In remarks this morning in the White House Rose Garden, President Barack Obama said, the website that is supposed to be the conduit through which people buy insurance under the new health-care law, "hasn't worked as smoothly as it was supposed to." That's a little like saying a plane that crashed into a mountain, caught fire and exploded didn't land as smoothly as it was supposed to. Three weeks into the most flagrant debacle of his presidency, Obama didn't say what went wrong, why or who was to blame. He offered no details about what the administration is doing to fix it ("We've got people working overtime"), or how long it will take. And he expressed no contrition, saying only that "Nobody's madder than me" (10/21).

The Washington Post: A Prescription For Fixing Obamacare Glitches
The first step in dealing with a problem is to admit that you have one. By that standard, President Obama began Monday to resolve the embarrassing computer malfunctions that marred the opening phase of the Affordable Care Act. The administration has been tardy in dealing with a brewing crisis that could undermine confidence in the program (10/21).

The Wall Street Journal: 1-800-ObamaCare-Denial
'More than a website" is the latest defense of the Affordable Care Act's painful rollout, and liberals are partly right. ObamaCare has larger ambitions than the basket case called and the 36 federally run insurance exchanges. But building the website was supposed to be the easy part. The health law's fiasco of a debut doesn't inspire confidence in those other ambitions, such as re-engineering how U.S. medicine is provided, but it does help explain the modern liberal project (10/21).

The Wall Street Journal: Vaporcare
"The Affordable Care Act is not just a website," President Obama said at the Rose Garden today. "It's much more." It's like a chamois, it's like a towel, it's like a sponge. Another way of putting it is that ObamaCare isn't just a technical failure. And it isn't just an economically unsustainable scheme. Now it's a rhetorical disaster too. Even by the standards of Obama speeches it was terrible. It was so bad, it was the ObamaCare website of political oratory (James Taranto, 10/21).

The New York Times: The Health Site's Chaotic Debut
President Obama rightly acknowledged on Monday that there is "no excuse" for the horrendously botched opening of the federal Web site consumers are supposed to use to sign up for health insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act. Unless the problems can be fixed soon, they threaten to undermine the ability of the health care exchanges to help enroll some seven million uninsured Americans in 2014 (10/21).

Los Angeles Times: President Obama Angry About ACA Glitches; Unbowed About Benefits
If anyone expected President Obama to be cowed, apologetic or remorseful Monday when he answered a barrage of criticism about the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act's website -- which even he  admitted "stank" -- they must have been very disappointed (Robin Abcarian, 10/21).

The Washington Post: Obamacare Needs A Doctor
For liberals, it is a cruel twist of history that Harry Truman's dream of universal health coverage, carried forward by generations of committed Democrats, should fall to the Obama administration for its fulfillment. Barack Obama seems to have adopted this cause in January 2007 as a last minute speech insert. "We needed something to say," one adviser told Politico. "I can't tell you how little thought was given to that thought other than it sounded good." Eventually, the Affordable Care Act was passed by a partisan vote, draining the law of legitimacy outside the Democratic Party. Over the next three years, Obama proved incapable of explaining Obamacare's virtues and its popularity fell. Then its implementation was entrusted to a Cabinet secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, who gratuitously alienated religious groups and massively bungled the law's rollout (Michael Gerson, 10/21). 

The Washington Post: In Obamacare Speech, Obama Makes A Desperate Sales Pitch
Not since the Ginsu knife cut through an aluminum can and still sliced a tomato has America seen a pitch quite like the one President Obama delivered in the Rose Garden on Monday. "The product is good. The health insurance that's being provided is good. It's high quality, and it's affordable," the president announced. "People can save money -- significant money -- by getting insurance that's being provided through these marketplaces" (Dana Milbank, 10/21). 

The New York Times' Taking Note: Some Republicans Change Course On Health Care
Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, never misses a chance to accuse President Obama of being a terrible leader. So it was inevitable that he would pronounce Mr. Obama's Rose Garden speech today about problems with the federal health insurance Web site a sign of a "fundamental breakdown in leadership." But some Republicans are actually getting weary of their party's approach to the Affordable Care Act. Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, continued his pre-Presidential campaign by arguing that the G.O.P. made a huge mistake when it shut down the government in an attempt to dismantle the health law (Andrew Rosenthal, 10/21).

Bloomberg: Is Obamacare In A Death Spiral?
Another week has passed, which apparently means that it's time for another terrifying article from Sharon LaFraniere, Ian Austen and Robert Pear on the federal health care exchanges. … Time to panic? No. But it's time to prepare to panic. It sounds like the earliest anyone is projecting fixes is sometime in the middle of November (Megan McArdle, 10/21).

The New Republic: How Republicans Became Accidental Champions Of Obamacare
Yes, it is awfully rich that Republicans and conservative commentators, after doing their utmost to undermine the Affordable Care Act these past few years, are now carping about the serious flaws in the Web sites set up to process applications for health insurance coverage. While the administration bears responsibility for the technological problems, there is no question that odds for success would have been greater if it had not been denied the funding it needed to set up such a complex new system, if it had not had to handle the new insurance exchanges in so many states that refused to build their own, and if it had not had to delay stages of the exchange construction to avoid political opposition (Alec MacGillis, 10/22).

The Denver Post: Health Exchange Website Tests Administration's Credibility
President Obama was right Monday when he said "we did not wage this long and contentious battle [over the Affordable Care Act] just around a website. That's not what this was about." No, it was not. But the credibility of his administration does in fact now rest in part on whether the federally designed site used in 36 states to search and sign up for health insurance can be fixed in reasonably short order (10/21).

Fox News: I Was An ObamaCare Guinea Pig
I signed up. I saved. And so will millions of Americans. Honestly, I couldn't wait to sign up for ObamaCare -- not because I talk about it on television, but because I'm tired of being ripped off by my insurance company. I live in New York State -- which for several decades has had the highest individual insurance premiums in the nation. Three years ago when I was shopping for insurance, there weren't that many options to choose from. And the plan I ended up with is expensive and, to put it bluntly, crappy (Sally Kohn, 10/21).

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Frustrated? Fix Obamacare Website's Problems
Obama did say "there's no excuse for the problems" and promised they will be fixed. He also pointed out that Obamacare is much more than a website and that applicants could still sign up via telephone or through the old-fashioned way, through a paper application. On that he's right: Despite the website's initial problems, the Affordable Care Act is still a huge step forward in health care insurance reform. But to realize its promise, people have to sign up, and if the website's problems continue, many could be discouraged from doing so. The president's words Monday at his Obamacare pep rally were heartening, but they won't mean much if the problems don't get fixed soon and if frustration over the system continues to grow (10/21).

The Boston Globe: A Better Way To Tackle Health Law
Instead of pointing out the very real and serious flaws in the new health care law, [politicians opposing the health law] repeat hyperbolic dubious claims: That the act is in the "realm of socialism." (Representative Steve King of Iowa.) That "individual liberty is gone." (Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas.) That Obamacare "is going to destroy America and everything in America." (Representative Paul Broun of Georgia.) Wouldn't it be better if, instead of mimicking a doomsday cult, these Obamacare opponents would highlight actual problems that really do exist? (Farah Stockman, 10/22). 

Los Angeles Times: How Obamacare Reduces Premiums For Some Without Subsidies
The launch of Covered California, the state's marketplace for health insurance, has prompted a new line of argument over the 2010 health care law among readers of The Times. Some supporters of the law say they've found lower prices for insurance through the new state exchanges; others (some of whom say their premiums are skyrocketing) insist that's impossible (Jon Healey, 10/21). 

Bloomberg: Saving Obamacare Without Congress
The failures of have reignited the question of whether and how the federal government should delay the penalty for not buying insurance. Here's half an answer: If the administration of President Barack Obama opts for delay, a provision of the Affordable Care Act gives it the legal authority to do so, without turning to Congress (Nicholas Bagley & Austin Frakt, 10/21).

USA Today: Reform Medicare By Raising Eligibility Age
While all of the health policy attention has been focused on the Affordable Care Act's website problems, a long-term issue is being ignored -- the sustainability of the Medicare program. Baby Boomers might be slowing down, but as they age, the behind-the-scenes debate to reform Medicare is getting more vigorous. Some suggest that the glut of beneficiaries born 1946-64 -- what demographers call the "pig in the python" -- will pass and we can merely nip and tuck at the program's rising costs. In fact, the huge demographic bulge is being followed down the snake's gullet by something even larger: increasing life expectancy (Denis Cortese and Robert Smoldt, 10/21).

Los Angeles Times: Your Prescription History Is Their Business
Think you can keep a medical condition secret from life insurers by paying cash for prescription meds? Think again. A for-profit service called ScriptCheck exists to rat you out regardless of how diligent you are in trying to keep a sensitive matter under wraps. ScriptCheck, offered by ExamOne, a subsidiary of Quest Diagnostics, is yet another example of data mining -- using sophisticated programs to scour databases in search of people's personal information and then selling that info to interested parties (David Lazarus, 10/21).

CBS News: Obamacare Site: It Never Should Have Been This Bad
What caused the website problems? From the looks of it, long-standing architectural and design mistakes, a lack of an adequate testing, a wildly inadequate rollout strategy, political infighting, and the need to create the systems for 36 states that could not or would not build their own. When the massive problems appeared as the website opened, the administration blamed the results on higher-than-anticipated traffic, spinning that as a sign that the law was badly needed. The traffic excuse is not entirely unreasonable. Because so many states had opted out of building their own exchanges, the federal government had to pick up the slack. Few major transaction websites like an or go from nothing to massive popularity overnight (Erik Sherman, 10/21).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.



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