The following first appeared in the Oct. 21, 2013, edition of Forbes magazine online. Michael LoCoco is a third-year student at SMU's Dedman School of Law.
Michael LoCoco on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report" on Oct. 25.
November 7, 2013
By Michael LoCoco
Imagine you’re at a car dealer. You get in the car. You’re not sure you’re going to buy, but you’re interested. The dealer has had great commercials on the radio and TV, and you’re excited. The prices are cheap. You’ve needed a car for a while. You get in the first car you’re interested in and it won’t start. You’re disappointed and you turn to the dealer who tells you not to worry; these glitches are to be expected and to come back the next day. When you return the cars still won’t start. You repeat this pattern for a week and eventually give up. Welcome to Healthcare.gov.
I consider myself to be a sophisticated individual. While I am aware of my limitations, I am, as Yogi might say, smarter than the average bear. Given this fact, I’d like someone from the Obama administration, perhaps Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, to explain to me the absolute dumpster fire that is the Obamacare Exchange online site, Healthcare.gov.
Again, I am fairly certain I’m not some kind of Cro-Magnon. I graduated from my University with a degree in Philosophy. I attend a top tier law school. I have thus far managed to avoid destitution. However, if Obamacare is difficult for me to navigate, I have little hope for those who haven’t been as blessed as I with the education I have received.
Some disclosure: I am 25 years old. My wife is 24. She is currently 7 months pregnant with our first child. I am the target demographic for Obamacare. While I currently have insurance through my law school, it won’t last after I graduate. I am hopeful I’ll receive health care through my employer, but I haven’t made it this far in life by making assumptions. Consequently, I decided to take the Obamacare exchange for a test-drive to see what my options might be. I have been rebuffed.
Through a week spent online, in livechats, and on the phone, I haven’t made it past the log-in phase. I don’t understand it myself. The President and his staff keep assuring me that for this system to work, they need people like me and my family to enroll. It’s not that I’m not interested; it’s that I haven’t been allowed.
I should take this time to point out that assuming the federal government had the administrative savvy to co-opt one-sixth of the American economy is the height of hubris. I should also highlight that, whatever anyone might think, the 50 employee threshold, the 30 hour requirement, and the uncertainty that is stifling hiring are better subjects for study. I might mention my increasing annoyance at how grateful I should be that I can stay on my parents’ insurance until I’m 26 (to which I should add that my baby won’t be covered, and that I would very much like the economy to improve so I can buy my own insurance). However, that’s not the point of this article. The point is not to take a position on the law; it’s to point out, very simply, that I am Obamacare’s target demographic: I am intelligent, tech-savvy, and (evidently) patient. This article is to underscore that this administration is incapable of running something as complicated as the entire health care market.
To forestall any of the insipid mewling of Obamacare’s proponents, I understand glitches are often to be expected. This isn’t a case of glitches. This is a case of incompetence. Though I am no programmer I have a passing familiarity with the concepts. I searched the web, places like Reddit and other communities in which Obamacare’s glaring and obvious coding errors were mentioned with annoyance by those who are in favor of the law. The Obama Administration points out that they didn’t have time or didn’t anticipate the interest (note that they keep mentioning interest and visitors to the site and not the actual number of people buying). With respect to the President, I don’t buy that. They had years, years, to prepare this website. This isn’t a base on the moon. It’s a website and it’s broken. They are expecting, indeed touting the fact, that millions will buy insurance through the exchanges, yet they didn’t expect millions to visit the site? I could have told them to expect interest.
I am not a mere observer. I have registered accounts on Healthcare.gov and then not been permitted to log-in. I have had livechats during which the operator informed me she couldn’t fix my problem (thanks for your effort, Ana). I spent 40 minutes on hold before I had to go to work and hang up. I am a face among the group needed to make Obamacare work, but I can’t do it and not for lack of trying.
So what is the deal, Ms. Sebelius? Why the hang-up, Secretary Lew? What’s the problem, President Obama? Mr. President, you apparently had no knowledge of Solyndra, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, or the IRS scandal. You clearly haven’t fixed the economy or the Syria situation. So, what exactly do you do? This is your baby; surely you were involved. It’s frustrating to me how opaque this administration is, and if it’s frustrating to me then it has to be frustrating to those with less patience or savvy who might be trying to apply.
I’ve been honest from the start; I’m just trying to test-drive the system before I’m fined, taxed, or in some other way penalized for not purchasing the product. I appreciate innovation. I can accept change. But if Healthcare.gov is what passes for improvement these days, I’m disappointed. If it were a car dealership, I’d have already left the lot.
Michael LoCoco is a 3L at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law and a graduate of the University of Dallas. He and his wife Courtney are expecting their first child in December.