One thing that absolutely frustrates video gamers is a release date being pushed back, but a delayed release date is better than getting a buggy piece of junk. Unfortunately, it seems private technology firms are always pushing back release dates on everything from video games to operating systems, yet consumers will still buy a good product, even if it is delayed. In retrospect, pushing back the release date of the massive Health Insurance Marketplace website would have been a better option than releasing it with insufficient testing, especially when the testing of the fully integrated product crashed with only a few hundred individuals using the system.
That said, politics and public policy make such delays significantly more problematic. In regards to public policy, a delay would mean either key benefits to consumers would have to be delayed, i.e. preconditions could still be used to deny coverage, or providers would have to shoulder the burden of an increased number of high risk beneficiaries, i.e. the prices might have been significantly pushed up in the interim. Consequently, any policy change would have the potential to drastically distort the health insurance market.
If there is lesson here, it is that proponents of massive initiatives like Obamacare need to design the rollout of their policies so they are not terribly reliant on all components working flawlessly, because they won’t. Meanwhile, they need to have backup plans and recognize technology takes time to develop properly. In accordance, public policy must better reflect realistic time constraints, especially when that policy depends upon technology. Of course, contractors also need to be more forthright in what is a realistic time or suffer the consequences alongside their politically elected partners.
In regards to politics, any mistake was certain to attract the unrelenting condemnation of Republicans, so those involved in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act should have chosen to make forgivable mistakes. Missing a deadline is a major problem; launching a faulty, ill-tested website is a scandal. Republicans look bad when they undermine public policies for the sake of proving they were supposedly “right,” so the Obama Administration is better served by recognizing the shortcomings of Obamacare and its implementation. When government fails to respond to those faults, especially when so many Americans are dependent upon that policy change, obstructionists bare the largest share of the blame.
Quite frankly, opponents are going to use any slight deviation from how the Obama Administration envisioned the health insurance reform bill to call it a complete and absolute disaster, or a lie. For example, there are many employers who are dropping coverage. Realistically, the nature of business is to reduce costs without incurring too many liabilities. Dropping your employees’ healthcare or increasing their share of the cost is a huge PR liability, especially considering the ever-increasing cost of healthcare that employers have long feared; Obamacare offers a good excuse for cutting healthcare costs.
Meanwhile, it is fairly naïve for people to think a significant change in public policy would not result in massive unintended consequences like the cancellation of certain individual plans. Unless government outright makes it illegal for health insurance providers and employers to drop coverage that existed before the signing of Obamacare, economics dictates what insurance providers and employers do. Henceforth, attacking the Obama Administration on policy implications that they cannot control or Congress will not change is counterproductive and petty while it certainly does not mean major healthcare reform was unnecessary. If policyholders want to keep their coverage, and that coverage still exists (implied if you were paying attention to the debate back then), Obama did not lie so long as he attempted to honor his promise through the policy.
Moreover, it is seems the Obama Administration should have pushed back the launch date of the website and extended the open enrolled period while temporarily expanding the capacity of other signup methods. In fact, the success of the few State exchanges which do exist suggest government should not try to build such massive systems. It probably would have been better to rollout several regional or State exchanges built by individual companies and managed by the Federal government. Under such an approach, the exchanges could have been integrated later or turned over to the States. Finally, there are many lessons that can be learned from the healthcare.gov debacle, but our political leaders need to compensate for the ongoing problems now by adjusting policies and giving those who are working to fix the problems the room they need, especially since they’re supposed to be working on things like a Budget.
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