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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    "Mr Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony."

    by tarheel74 on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 05:12:12 PM PDT

  •  I predict 2 or 3 recs.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But the truth will set you free. It was obvious from the start that they DIDN'T test the system. I've tested systems. It's a disaster. Said so from the beginning.

    She couldn't answer how many had actually completed the transaction from open to close. None. But she reinforced HUGE interest and MILLIONS of hits. If that is true, and I don't doubt that it is, it stands to reason that she would have good numbers to promote. She didn't. There are none.

    They totally botched my application, referring me to a non-existent TennCare site/program. Case closed according to an hour long phone call. I'll have to start all over, I guess. Or just give up. Anyone who defends this massive blunder will soon regret it.

    I support the ACA, not the roll of the web apt.

    What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. SAM HARRIS

    by Cpqemp on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 05:27:14 PM PDT

    •  And They Could've Rationed Access Alphabetically. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      So mind numbingly simple the principle of dividing the population to prevent a huge surge is used for things like drivers' licenses. It's not like the system is ever again going to face such a rush.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 05:34:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  These are technical issues (0+ / 0-)

        They could have done many things to get a smooth roll-out so that system does not crash.

        But that's government IT "expertise" for you. Whoever tested it really did not do a good job. That's even more bewildering given that when OFA rolled out its project Narwahl, they tested and retested their data collection traffic for many months to make sure that the servers don't crash. So obviously the HHS did not contact the same people.

        My main beef with the HHS is the horrible marketing and messaging. Sebelius has no clue what she is doing. I doubt if most people even know that she is the secretary of the HHS.

        "Mr Obama wishes to be president of a country that does not exist. In his fantasy US, politicians bury differences in bipartisan harmony."

        by tarheel74 on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 05:41:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  ... (0+ / 0-)

    Sunken boat

    I ♥ President Barack Obama.

    by ericlewis0 on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 06:20:08 PM PDT

  • (4+ / 0-)

    She should get a friggin Presidential medal.  

    Computer glitches that will be completely forgotten in two weeks time is nothing compared to this leviathan of legislation she's leading from start-up though it's launch - all the while one party is doing everything they can to make sure it fails.  

    Glenn Greenwald promotes far-right fringe extremist group The Oath Keepers -

    by Jacoby Jonze on Wed Oct 09, 2013 at 06:56:38 PM PDT

    •  I agree (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      manyamile, Chas 981, jan4insight, skohayes

       She was Insurance Commissioner when I lived in Kansas and I can tell you right now she was an EXCELLENT Insurance Commissioner. I know this from first hand experience.

      I don't think she is in over her head. I think that this is a major change to a huge part of our system and no one should expect it to go without problems.

      I agree she could have done a much better job explaining things on the Daily Show, but I also thought Jon was being sort of an ass.  Anybody with half a brain knows why the individual mandate can not be delayed for a year without the entire ACA blowing up.

      I also remember reading somewhere that the money allocated to educate and promote the ACA to the masses was severely cut to the bone by congress. So you cant lay that at her feet.

  •  Yeah, afraid I disagree (0+ / 0-)

    The roll out was poorly done, the website doesn't work too well, but it's certainly no worse than the roll out of Medicare Part D. That was massive confusion that went on for months, even with chain drug stores and pharmacies assisting the government in getting people signed up. Can you imagine having Navigators with a table set up in Wal Marts, signing people up for the ACA?
    If you'll remember, the Republicans have fought against spending money for implementation since 2011, and thus the program was not given the tweaks and mini-rollouts that it needed to get the ball rolling.
    There's never been a smooth roll out of a massive program like this.

    Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

    by skohayes on Thu Oct 10, 2013 at 03:41:14 AM PDT

  •  I disagree as well (0+ / 0-)

    Recently on Daily Kos, a diarist reminded us that the budget for implementing the ACA was not funded--the "train wreck" some Democrats were worried about was due to that move by Republicans. Sibelius had to implement, which I assume included the website, with money from the regular HHS budget, so probably had to make do with much less money.  And hasn't the dept. itself taken a hit with the sequester and budget cuts supported by the Republicans? She and her department also had to fend off, for months, questions and end runs from the right on funding birth control for women through the ACA. And finally, her father died late this summer -- he was in hospice. Anyone who has dealt with hospitals and hospice and death in a family knows that no matter what is on your plate at the time or how important it is, you simply cannot keep on top of everything. I think she's done an amazing job in very difficult circumstances. I am amazed that the roll out has gone as well as it has given the Republican obstruction to giving it any implementation budget. How did the dept. manage to get it up and running at all on next to nothing??!!

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