I have often lamented how there does not appear to be any real sense of accountability left in Washington. (For a column, click here). Billions of dollars are wasted or programs are run into the ground, but rarely are people held accountable. Part of the reason is the duopoly of power. Politicians have so convinced voters to adopt this red state/blue state paradigm that Democrats and Republicans will no longer tolerate any criticism of their respective leaders or parties. It is, to put it simply, nothing short of a scam. We have become so programmed by the respective parties that any negative story about our respective party automatically unleashes an attack on how much worse the other party is or would be in a given area. It is the same phenomenon that we saw during the Bush Administration where Republicans remained silent in the face of failed policies and poor administrative decisions. We have become a nation of apologists.
One of the greatest examples that I have previously discussed is the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Democrats deserve ample criticism first for a law that was poorly drafted and vetted (when I spoke on Capitol Hill before its passage, I said I was in favor of national health care but thought this was one of the worst crafted major pieces of legislation I had seen go to the floor of Congress.). After doing a uniquely bad job in drafting the law, the Obama Administration then did an absolutely appalling job in managing the program in its critical rollout despite years of planning and billions in costs. Now, the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO) has completed its investigation of the disastrous rollout and found gross negligence that drove up costs and crippled the start of the program. The response? Crickets. Nothing.
The GAO concluded that the Obama Administration lacked the most basic management discipline in creating “effective planning or oversight practices” for Healthcare.gov — the key component of the rollout. Investigators found gross negligence with the Administration constantly changing directions to contractors, widespread confusion among Administrators, and millions of unnecessary cost overruns. It also included over 40 instances where Obama Administration officials increase expenditures without authority. In the meantime, insiders benefitted from the gushing of federal funds like Jonathan Gruber who received almost half a million dollars as a consultant. The government has spent some $840 million on Healthcare.gov and its supporting systems. Almost one billion on a website that failed.
Take the computerized sign up system. Thousands of companies have such systems in business. However, the Obama Administration drove up the costs from $56 million to more than $209 million from Sept. 2011 to Feb. 2014 and still produced a dysfunctional system. The verification system for information was allowed to grow from $30 million to almost $85 million. A contract for fixes to the website, also grew from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month. Website fixes went from $91 million in January to $175 million as of last month. That’s right, the costs are increasing for such fixes. At any private business, such a record would result in massive firings and a stockholder revolt.
Contractors who were widely criticized for negligence were warned but ultimately paid in full. Take Virginia-based CGI Federal, which built HealthCare.gov. The system failed on the first day and led to a snow balling catastrophe. However, the Administration paid all of CGI’s $12.5 million in fees, withholding only $267,000. We previously discussed the company’s highly dubious record.
While the Administration and former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius later said that they were entirely unaware of the problems, that was obviously the problem. It was their job to be fully aware — not just to throw hundreds of millions of dollars at problems and hope everything was fine for the rollout. The problems were so extensive that contractors refused to sign off on the rollout. CMS administrator Marilyn Tavenner had to personally sign off (an unusual act) because no one else would. Wasn’t that a bit of an indicator that the system was not ready?
None of this matters of course. For Democrats, any criticism of Obamacare is treated as a criticism of Obama in today’s encoded political discourse. Ironically, the negligence of the Obama Administration in the rollout helped worsen the view of voters toward the law and the Democrats. Disapproval of the law now stands at 55 percent and Obamacare is featuring prominently in the backlash. This could have been quite different if the Administration had done a competent job at the rollout. The Democrats are at risk of losing both houses and many of those losses may prove to be self-inflicted wounds from simple negligence and the lack of accountability.
Here is the report.