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Obamacare and great expectations

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As an ordinary American comfortably covered by a spouse’s health insurance plan, I have observed the Obamacare debacle with a kind of detached astonishment. I am not surprised that government faced with extraordinary complexities appears inept. I’ve seen that before. I’m not surprised when elected officials tell people what they want to hear, even if it’s not true. I’ve seen that before. I’m not surprised that people think health care and the insurance to pay for it is far more expensive than it should be. I’ve seen that before. What is astonishing is that we expected something different.

First, the trouble with HealthCare.gov, the infamous website. Because the federal government invented the Internet doesn’t mean it or its contractors can devise a convenient, fast, consumer-friendly system to easily sort out very complex financial options for 7 million people before the end of March. That would be astonishing even with a three-year head start, as the Obama administration had. To people who have seen many far less complex government digital initiatives become embarrassments, state and local, to expect the federal government and hirelings to be Amazon savvy overnight is just a hoot. You can just imagine the pre-launch IT meetings with befuddled tech folks afraid to be the one to point out the thing had no chance to work. We weren’t going to get the smiley Kindle Fire Mayday girl popping up in the corner to save the day. This kind of thing is possible on a smaller scale — Washington’s myhealthplan site has been far more successful, managing to enroll 175,000 people so far. Most of those are Medicaid signups. Some 18,000 got linked to private health plans.

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