Liberally yours is a regular column at the Daily Caller featuring Thom Hartmann, the number one progressive radio host in the country, in conversation with libertarians and conservatives. This week, he’s joined by Alex Smith, chairman of the College Republicans, to debate the Obamacare rollout.
Obamacare is working fine. Yes – you heard me right: Obamacare is working fine. Well, at least in the states that aren’t run by the Tea Party. Now that the shutdown is over, the media has moved onto its next manufactured controversy: the glitchy roll out of the Obamacare health exchanges. Right after the exchanges opened on October 1 – newspapers and TV networks started reporting that some users were having problems with Healthcare.gov.
Stories about Healthcare.gov fell into the background during the 24/7 coverage of the shutdown – but since the president signed a bill to reopen the government last Thursday– cable news cycles have been running non-stop features on the site’s problems. And let’s be honest – these problems are pretty bad. Healthcare.gov crashes, runs slowlyand sometimes gives users bad information about the tax credits that make health insurance under Obamacare so much more affordable.
Predictably, Fox News has jumped on these problems to make it seem like Obamacare as a whole is doomed. HealthCare.gov’s problems are embarrassing and the Obama administration needs to fix them if it wants its healthcare law to work. But here’s the thing: lost in all the very justified talk about how screwy the site is, is any talk about why the website so screwy and who made it that way.
Remember, the Healthcare.gov exchange site was meant to be a portal. It was never designed to bring together a bunch of different insurance policies and put them in one place. Instead, when the government first set-up the federal exchange system, it thought that states would, you know, cooperate with Obamacare and set-up their own exchanges.
The Healthcare.gov portal would verify people’s citizenship and eligibility, and then hand them off to the website of the state they live in. The state website would then have its own unique database reflecting different state standards for income eligibility, Medicaid eligibility, and the different health insurance companies that chose to participate in each state. Thus, the states would bear most of the burden for building the exchanges.
But Republican-run states didn’t co-operate. Tea Party Republicans convinced 36 states to not set-up their own exchanges. Because so many of these Republican governors said no to helping out their own states — the federal government had to step in and do their job for them on the Healthcare.gov website.
This meant plugging in a boatload of information about each of these 36 states’ insurance rules onto one site – Healthcare.gov – on very short notice. This is a pretty complicated task – and any problems the site is having right now are really the fault of the Republican state lawmakers who decided sabotaging Obamacare was more important than helping their people get healthcare. So when Fox and Republicans talk about how the site is not working, they’re not complaining – they’re bragging.
Ironically, Obamacare is working pretty well in the states that set-up their own exchanges. The state exchange sites have had some problems — every website does when it first comes out – but as Jonathan Cohn pointed out in the New Republic, “Consumers are getting opportunities they never had before – to shop for insurances, each one with clearly defined benefits … 180,000 have completed applications for insurance [in the state exchanges] and, of those, 50,000 have enrolled.”
Of course – you’re not going to hear that on Fox News. During a speech at the White House earlier today – President Obama announced that his administration is working hard to fix Healthcare.gov’s problems. Let’s hope the president and his administration can get the Republican-caused Obamacare rollout mess sorted out quickly. And let’s also hope that they call out the Tea Partiers who screwed it up to begin with.