Key Obamacare questions were never asked

Like ‘How is this going to work when it gets implemented?’

In the crush of media coverage of the politics of the government shutdown, and political jockeying in government itself, a bit of common sense stands out.

Like this little snip about CNN’s Wolf Blitzer saying maybe we could benefit from a little delay on Obamacare. First, CNN correspondent Brian Todd reported on the problems with the healthcare law rollout:

“We’re also hearing now that the administration was warned about these potential problems months in advance,” Todd continued. “We spoke to a health care consultant who has clients who are insurers. He says his insurers, who dealt with the administration in the months ahead of time, had contentious meetings with people at [Health and Human Services] and other health care officials who were in charge of this, warning them, ‘This isn’t working, it’s not going to be smooth, don’t do it.’ He says those warnings were ignored, they went full speed ahead, and said we’ll work these problems out. There’s been a bit of pushback from the White House, we’ll hope to get more later from them.”

Right now, that’s just protocol for network correspondents to say, because they know they’re not going to get more from them later.

Here’s Slate with a little more specificity about what the pre-launch warnings were likely about. I can’t remember right now where I read it, but one techie was quoted in a news story a few days ago as saying that using two different contractors to build the “front end” and “back end” of the site is sort of like trying to build a bridge by starting on opposite shorelines and trying/hoping to meet in the middle:

“So we had (at least) two sets of contracted developers, apparently in isolation from each other, working on two pieces of a system that had to run together perfectly. Anyone in software engineering will tell you that cross-group coordination is one of the hardest things to get right, and also one of the most crucial, because while programmers are great at testing their own code, testing that their code works with everybody else’s code is much more difficult.

“Look at it another way: Even if scale testing is done, that involves seeing what happens when a site is overrun. The poor, confusing error handling indicates that there was no ownership of the end-to-end experience—no one tasked with making sure everything worked together and at full capacity, not just in isolated tests. (I can’t even figure out who was supposed to own it.) No end-to-end ownership means that questions like “What is the user experience if the back-end gets overloaded or has such-and-such an error?” are never asked, because they cannot be answered by either group in isolation.”

This is a good, grabbable, concise message. So is‘s conclusion.

Blitzer’s offhand endorsement of a one-year delay is an intriguing bit of anecdotal evidence that Glitchapalooza might be nudging public opinion towards supporting a postponement of the law for a few months or a year while the bugs are worked out. But then that raises the question — why isn’t “delay” the GOP’s core message right now? Boehner’s holding one or two press conferences a day to complain that Obama won’t talk to him when he should be using that free media to hammer the point that O-Care isn’t ready for primetime. Frankly, unless I missed it, this has been a minor point from Ted Cruz and Mike Lee lately too. Whenever I’ve seen them on the news the past few days, they’re more likely to be talking about using small funding bills to restart parts of the government than the many, many catastrophic technical problems with the exchanges.

This all needs attention. Because while everyone is on talking points, the right questions aren’t being asked, answered, covered, or explained to the American public.

As Ed Morrissey so well points out here.