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 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT