Death spiral of credibility in White House
October 24, 2013 -- Updated 1932 GMT (0332 HKT)
- 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.
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.
Part of complete coverage on
December 7, 2013 -- Updated 1836 GMT (0236 HKT)
Joshua Stanton and Sung Yoon Lee say the world must deny the Kim regime access to the global financial system until it closes the brutal prisons that have held hundreds of thousands of innocent people
December 7, 2013 -- Updated 0038 GMT (0838 HKT)
David Rothkopf says in the death of Mandela comes another of his gifts to the world: a reminder of the stunning changes that swept the world in the time of his triumph
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says conservatives should take note: Rising inequality is the proven enemy of stability.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2348 GMT (0748 HKT)
While in jail, Nelson Mandela was able to fundamentally change himself and emerge as a potent leader, says John Battersby.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 2139 GMT (0539 HKT)
Stephen Trachtenberg says if students pay $55,000 a year, they may feel they've paid for the As in dollars as well as sense.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1514 GMT (2314 HKT)
James Hansen says science tells us how to avoid devastating the planet through carbon emissions; all we need to do is act.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Immigration activist Eliseo Medina, who just concluded a fast on the National Mall, says that unless immigration reform is passed by Congress, the country's legacy in jeopardy.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
Kennedy Odede says Nelson Mandela's example kept his spirit alive when he lived on the streets as a child in a dangerous slum in Nairobi.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0037 GMT (0837 HKT)
Jim Sterba: A woman was mauled by a bear. Coyotes and wolves are increasing. We need wildlife to fear us.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1222 GMT (2022 HKT)
Sally Kohn says hospitals are closing in GOP states that refused to expand Medicaid. Republicans want to spite Obama, but they end up hurting their constituents.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1451 GMT (2251 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah: Who could've ever predicted that 140 characters could screw up so many people's lives?
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1225 GMT (2025 HKT)
Matthew Fraser says racism is a sensitive issue in France, and Bob Dylan's comments have touched a raw nerve.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 1450 GMT (2250 HKT)
Johnita Due says we can understand and empathize with the pain felt by survivors of the Newtown shootings, yet access to public records is vital if we are to fully understand our society and its ills.
December 4, 2013 -- Updated 1801 GMT (0201 HKT)
Brian Donovan says we don't know what went through Paul Walker's mind in the moments leading up to his fiery end, but the crash may provide yet another example of speed's addictive power
December 3, 2013 -- Updated 2255 GMT (0655 HKT)
Robert Ellsberg says Rush Limbaugh's remarks show no one is troubled by a pope who loves the poor until the pope dares to reflect on the causes of poverty
December 3, 2013 -- Updated 0153 GMT (0953 HKT)
Sanjay Gupta says whether the Affordable Health Care Act ends up improving health has a lot to do with whether Americans start making better personal decisions about eating, exercise and weight loss
December 3, 2013 -- Updated 2256 GMT (0656 HKT)
Kyle Ayers says it's OK to share conversations publicly as long as the people involved are kept anonymous.
Today's five most popular stories