For those who believe our government has become a bad parody of itself, you now have proof. As noted by WTOP, Saturday Night Live featured a skit in which Kate McKinnon portrayed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius speaking about the problems in registering for health care. In the skit, faux Sebelius notes that the website is visited by millions but is designed to only handle six people at a time. However, the media is reporting that in the first 24 hours, only six users were able to enroll of 4.7 million visitors. In the meantime, the Administration is delaying the release of enrollment figures while contractors are blaming Administration officials for the lack of testing and negligence supervision of the system.
On the Saturday Night skit, McKinnon says “Millions of Americans are visiting healthcare.gov, which is great news,” McKinnon said during the opening of last week’s show. “Unfortunately the site was only designed to handle six users at a time.”
It was a hilarious video but the current situation is hardly funny. We spent a shocking $400 million on the computer systems for Obamacare. Yet, as reported by NY Times and others, there were plenty of early signs of problems. Now contractors are blaming the government for failing to test the system fully and the suggestion is that there was no full test of a system after almost half a billion dollars were spent. Had there been adequate testing, it would not have been the failure that we are seeing. Yet, as with so many other areas from surveillance to civil liberties, the Democrats are again remaining relatively quiet or openly opposing efforts to force answers.
In her testimony, Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner said that the Administration would not disclose the numbers of those enrolled until mid-November. However, it is clear that such data exists but the Administration says it will not “have it” for released until weeks after the launch. Putting aside that convenient lack of current data, there is the testimony of contractors that it was the Administration that failed to allow full testing before the rollout.
While it is sometimes difficult to measure competence in public policy programs, this one would seem simple. The Administration repeatedly assured Congress that the system would be fully tested and ready by October 1st. Instead it was a disaster. The most obvious person accountable for such gross negligence is Sebelius. She had the ultimate responsibility to spend half of billion dollars wisely and guarantee a smooth rollout. She failed and it is not clear what it takes to get fired anymore in government. We have been discussing grotesque waste, massive loss of property, and even open perjury before Congress. None of it seems to meet the standard for discipline, let alone termination. For those who have fought hard to pass national health care, this negligence has played directly into the hands of its critics.
Then there is the contract given to CGI Federal, a U.S. subsidiary of Canadian firm CGI Group, which has a dubious record in creating such systems. CGI was accused by Ontario of widespread failures in its computer system and saw its contract terminated. The company, which has a close friend of the First Lady among its top executives, was given a huge contract on Obamacare despite its record. The company secured a contract in late 2011 worth a total of $93.7 million but other reports say that additional contracts gave the company the potential total payments of nearly $292 million. The company spent over $1 million in lobbying which appear to have overcome the alleged failure with systems in its past according to critics.
Part of the problem for some us is the lack of a reliable source in the media. Fox demonizes Obama while MSNBC now deifies him. The fact that this program is unfortunately known as Obamacare means that the performance of the program is too closely tied to the President to allow Democrats to join in efforts to demand accountability and disclosures.
In the end, this is no joke. We have more information from a Saturday Night skit than the Administration and even less evidence of accountability for what appears an avoidable failure.