As we all know by now, various wingnut circles want to extract several pounds of flesh from the White House for the numerous glitches in the online health care exchange. But NPR's Julie Ravner had a must-listen story on this morning's Morning Edition that shows the GOP bears a good deal of responsibility for this snafu as well.
"It is a mess and there's no sugarcoating it, and people shouldn't sugarcoat that," says Jay Angoff, who formerly ran the for the Department of Health and Human Services. "On the other hand, people should remember that those who are in charge of the money HHS needs to implement the federal exchange are dedicated to the destruction of the federal exchange, and the destruction of the Affordable Care Act."The main GOP talking point has been that the administration--and specifically Kathleen Sebelius--had more than three years to iron out the bugs in the site. But in truth, there wasn't much Sebelius and her team could do because the law was very much in limbo for much of 2011 and 2012. First, it had to wait for challenges to the law to make their way through the courts, with SCOTUS only upholding it in June 2012. Then there was the prospect that Mitt Romney and a Republican Senate would make repealing the law the first order of business once they took office.
Which led to the first big problem — money. When it became clear that to build the federal exchange than had been allocated in the original law, Republicans in Congress refused to provide it.
As a result, says Angoff, officials "had to scrape together money from various offices within HHS to build the federal exchange."
Then much of the time after Obama was sworn in for another term was spent getting the states to implement their own exchanges and expand Medicaid. This story argues that the major blunder on the White House's part was assuming that even the likes of Bobby Jindal, Pat McCrory, Rick Perry, Rick Scott, Nathan Deal and Sam Brownback would hold up their end of the bargain.
And in the end, the administration made a major miscalculation. Officials figured that even Republican states would both create their own exchanges and expand their Medicaid programs because both came with so much federal money attached.There's no denying that there have been a lot of mistakes made in the rollout of Healthcare.gov. But if Boehner, McConnell and friends think they can run from their share of responsibility in this, they have another think coming.
"The thought was that ultimately money trumps everything," says Angoff. "And that no matter what the rhetoric was of some of the elected officials against the Affordable Care Act, ultimately they would take the money. And I think what surprised most people was that in this case, money didn't trump everything."
Wed Oct 23, 2013 at 7:46 AM PT: To clarify, the White House deserves a good deal of blame for the stumbles so far ... most notably, the failure to come up with a contingency plan whenever states refused to set up their own exchanges. But to my mind, t's more than valid to argue that the GOP owns at least some responsibility as well.