By that I mean the Secretary of HHS Kathleen Sebelius.
I know people here are fixated on the government shutdown and implosion of the Republicans. But before we get carried away with schadenfreude, we should take a long hard look at our incredibly inept roll-out of the ACA exchanges.
Yes, glitches happen, but some of these glitches are because of sheer ineptness. But what really pisses me off is how the HHS is falling behind in marketing these exchanges to healthy young people whose enrollment is crucial for the survival of the plan.
I lay the blame of this entirely on Kathleen Sebelius. Either she does not understand the law that she is in charge of promoting, or she is so uncomfortable in such a visible role that she is flubbing the message. Either way her ineptitude is yielding ground to conservative misinformation about these exchanges.
I always thought she was incredibly invisible throughout the promotion of the ACA exchanges. But why should the Secretary of HHS, in charge of the largest healthcare overhaul ever, be so media shy was a mystery to me. That was until I watched her on the Daily Show.
Her performance on the Daily Show was cringe-worthy. It was as if she went there hoping to get softballs. But in face of challenging questions, some of them conservative hype and misinformation that she could have dispelled right there, she tripped all over herself.
What really appalled me was that she could not give a good explanation to differentiate the individual mandate from the employer mandate. When asked why the latter was delayed but the former was not, she stuck to these scripted talking points, which conveyed to me that either she does not understand the law that she is promoting, or she underestimates the intelligence of the Daily Show audience.
I mean the concept of "adverse selection" is not that difficult to explain:
In the current law that mandates health insurance be made available to everyone, if healthy people do not sign up and only the sick people do, insurance premiums will sky-rocket because the risk pool will be skewed to the higher side. This will make health insurance unaffordable to everyone.
There, not that difficult. No charts required. Instead we got a lame answer, and a lame discourse about fairness. As Josh Barro (yes, he is a conservative who write for the Business Insider and I enjoy reading him) wrote in his column:
The individual mandate is a tool that improves the overall fairness of the health care market by making insurance coverage broadly available and affordable. That's why it's fair. All the rest is noise.Ms. Sebelius should also know that the audience of the Daily Show are fairly intelligent people, contrary to whatever opinion she might have of them. They can understand nuances of a complex law, if explained properly.
But my bigger point is that if the Secretary is so inept that she cannot succinctly explain one of the, if not THE, major cornerstones of the Affordable Care Act, then she should hand over the reins to someone more competent, knowledgable and media savvy, who can. Her performance only perpetuates the myth that the individual mandate is an unnecessary and "unfair" burden on healthy young adults. If this myth gets enshrined we can all bid goodbye to healthcare reform.