For the last month, the lame-stream media has focused on all the problems created by the totally incompetent HealthCare.gov website. Yes, we all know the website doesn’t work. Uninsured Americans who need to access the site can’t get to it. It may have security problems that will leave our important personal information unprotected. Worse yet, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services knew about these problems before it went live. And according to some estimates, just fixing the problems could end up wasting more than half-a-billion dollars.
But there’s more to the sorry story. Much more.
First of all, we now know that the Obama administration hired a company called CGI Federal to build the website. Toni Townes-Whitley, a senior vice president at CGI Federal, was a Princeton classmate of First Lady Michelle Obama. Townes-Whitley was also a large donor to the Obama Campaign. Interestingly, CGI Federal hired her just around the time President Obama railroaded the Affordable Care Act through Congress on a purely partisan basis.
In addition, four other IT companies submitted bids to design the website. But apparently, they were never considered. The Obama administration only considered CGI Federal for this $93 million contract. In other words, it was a done deal from the start. This certainly doesn’t represent a free, fair, and competitive bidding process, which is supposed to get a better product for a better price on government contracts.
If clear favoritism weren’t bad enough, there’s another issue related to the HealthCare.gov website that has left me even more disappointed and despairing.
This one has to do with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius. During the worst, early days after the website’s launch, Sibelius claimed
that she was “too busy” to testify to Congress. (She also publicly stated that she “does not work for” the many Americans calling her to task about the website.)
However, she was not too busy to accept a last-minute invitation to speak on October 30th at an academic conference on “healthy cities” sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania.
So, she didn’t have time to testify before Congress about a website and public health program that will ultimately cost taxpayers trillions of dollars. But she found the time to talk at another academic conference on urban issues sponsored by Penn?
Both the timing of the last-minute invitation by Penn and Sibelius’ last-minute acceptance were the height of bad judgment. And a slap in the face to many millions of Americans.
Citizens everywhere must use this new website to get insurance before the looming January 1st deadline. But the website just doesn’t work. And the one person responsible for making sure it does work was at an academic conference, shaking hands and giving lofty, politically correct speeches.
In addition, up to 15 million Americans are in the process of losing the health care insurance they already had. And wanted. This, despite the President’s hollow promise, “if you like your insurance, you can keep it (period).”
As an alum and former donor to the University of Pennsylvania, I protested its late, gratuitous, wholly unnecessary decision to invite Sibelius to the conference.
A PR flack from the conference sent a disappointing, bland reply chastising me about “respecting a diversity of voices.” But there was no diversity to be found at this conference.
In any case, the real problem at hand is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) itself.
One of the ACA’s loftiest goals was to encourage competition among insurers in order to keep costs low. But this isn’t happening. Especially not in rural America. As usual, urban areas are receiving all the attention–just like at that Penn conference. And rural and small-town Americans are finding few choices. While Secretary Sibelius fiddles about “healthy urban areas,” the ACA will undoubtedly sabotage the health of rural and small-town America.
In fact, of the roughly 2,500 counties in America, 58 percent have plans offered by just one or two insurance carriers. And in 530 counties, Americans don’t have a choice at all! In these counties, there is only one insurer.
Counties with only one insurer are mostly in the south. Including nearly all the counties in Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina. Many counties in Alaska, Maine, and West Virginia also have no choice.
In the words of President Obama, these are the places where citizens “cling to their guns and their Bibles.” Now, these citizens are going to have to try to hang onto their health insurance. As well as their paychecks.
Thomas Jefferson, the original leader of the Democratic Party, envisioned a country built on the backbone of rural, agrarian democracy. He warned against the rule of the “mobocracy” and the “tyranny of the majority” in large, urban areas.
William Henry Harrison also believed in agrarian America. In 1840, Harrison was the first American to run for President as a “Washington outsider.” He opposed President Martin van Buren, who was running for re-election.
Using the “old cider mill” as a potent symbol of rural, self-sufficient, agrarian America, Harrison won the election. But he died after only one month in office. Since that time, there has been a slow slide away from the true democratic principles envisioned by the likes of Jefferson and Harrison.
Sadly, the Affordable Care Act takes yet another stab at rural, self-sufficient, agrarian America. And we will all suffer for it.