Skip to main content

Death spiral of credibility in White House

By Ed Morrissey, Special to CNN
updated 3:32 PM EDT, Thu October 24, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Edward Morrissey: Obamacare site launch has hurt administration's credibility
  • He says it spent $400 million to create working site, failed and is now obfuscating about it
  • He says even Democrats skeptical officials didn't know site not ready to be unveiled
  • Morrissey: Democrats credibility is damaged, idea of government-program interventions is, too

Editor's note: Edward Morrissey is a senior editor and correspondent for the conservative commentary website hotair.com

(CNN) -- Before the October 1 rollout of Healthcare.gov, a key concern was whether the Affordable Care Act system would create a "death spiral" for insurers. That crisis could be precipitated by an unenthusiastic response from younger, healthier Americans. These are the people whose high premiums and low demand for services are necessary for the risk pools to assume the costs of covering pre-existing conditions at community-pricing rates, as well as buffering the premiums of older and needier Americans.

Instead, the emerging "death spiral" crisis is one of the credibility for the White House and the idea that big government-program interventions work better than the private sector those interventions seek to reform.

The Department of Health and Human Services had 42 months and $400 million to create an operational Web portal that connects Americans who now are required by law to buy coverage from insurers, while connecting to the IRS to qualify people for federal subsidies in the exchanges.

Edward Morrissey
Edward Morrissey

For the last several months, HHS and the White House assured everyone that the system development was on track for an October 1 launch. Democrats fought a pitched battle against Republicans over the last month to keep the GOP from forcing a delay of the rollout.

Now, suddenly, the idea of a delay has moved from the ramblings of "anarchists," as Harry Reid described Obamacare opponents, to mainstream Democratic thought. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from deep-blue Connecticut, told a panel on MSNBC on Thursday that the mandate needs to be delayed, depending on "how soon these glitches are going to be solved." That will depend, Blumenthal said, on "leveling with the American people."

That honesty has been in short supply. More than two weeks into the crisis, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN's Sanjay Gupta that President Barack Obama had no inkling of the failure until he read about it in the papers, which follows a pattern of denials at the White House. Sebelius also implied that the failure took her by surprise too, even though the ACA was her agency's highest priority over the last 42 months, and the system failed a light-load test days before the launch.

Contractor: It's not great, but it works
Congressman decries 'monkey court'
Congressman: Obamacare a 'bad product'

Sebelius must have also missed the August report from the HHS Inspector General pointing out major flaws in the system and its testing, even though Reuters managed to notice it.

Even former White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called the notion that the White House didn't know about the Healthcare.gove problems "unbelievable," while National Journal's Ron Fournier called it "either a lie ... or an unfathomable lack of oversight." It could also be both, which is the possibility that now has Democrats doing a 180 and suggesting or demanding delays in the rollout.

Constituents fear dealing with IRS penalties for failure to buy insurance through a system they can't access and HHS can't fix, or even predict when it will be fixed. Even those who have managed to buy insurance through the site now have to wonder whether their insurers have their correct data. Meanwhile, Obama and Sebelius now want to reassure Americans that they have a grip on the problem ... by bringing in the private sector to fix what the government failed to execute.

Rarely have we seen such a confluence of incompetence, irresponsibility, and prevarication all at the same time. The death spiral of White House credibility won't just damage Democrats in the short run, but it will damage the agenda of advocates of activist government for years.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Edward Morrisdey.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 04: NFL commissioner Roger Goodell walks the sidelines prior to the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field on September 4, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Martha Pease says the NFL commissioner shouldn't be judge and jury on player wrongdoing.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
It's time for a much needed public reckoning over U.S. use of torture, argues Donald P. Gregg.
updated 8:25 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Peter Bergen says UK officials know the identity of the man who killed U.S. journalists and a British aid worker.
updated 7:28 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Joe Torre and Esta Soler say much has been achieved since a landmark anti-violence law was passed.
updated 4:55 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
David Wheeler wonders: If Scotland votes to secede, can America take its place and rejoin England?
updated 8:41 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Jane Stoever: Society must grapple with a culture in which 1 in 3 teen girls and women suffer partner violence.
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking recently said the world as we know it could be obliterated instantaneously. Meg Urry says fear not.
updated 6:11 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Bill Clinton's speech accepting the Democratic nomination for president in 1992 went through 22 drafts. But he always insisted on including a call to service.
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Fri September 12, 2014
Joe Amon asks: What turns a few cases of disease into thousands?
updated 1:21 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Sally Kohn says bombing ISIS will worsen instability in Iraq and strengthen radical ideology in terrorist groups.
updated 6:31 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Analysts weigh in on the president's plans for addressing the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
updated 9:27 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Artist Prune Nourry's project reinterprets the terracotta warriors in an exhibition about gender preference in China.
updated 9:36 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
The Apple Watch is on its way. Jeff Yang asks: Are we ready to embrace wearables technology at last?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT