Phil: After the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, do you recall President Obama declaring that he went down there to find out whose ass to kick?
Ethan: I do. And it worked because today the Gulf states are recovering. Why do you ask?
Phil: Well I suspect (hope!) there is some major ass-kicking going on with the people Obama hired to build the health care website. This is a calamity, to put it nicely.
Ethan: Yes, and for those of us who understand how important government is and how competently it accomplishes most endeavors, this rollout is very frustrating. That said, creating the new health care system is a monumental undertaking and system snafus are to be expected (talk to the folks in Silicon Valley), just like any other technology-based system rollout (wasn’t it like version 3.1 before Windows worked?!). However, I’m confident the issues are being addressed and anti-Obamacare types will have to find something else to harp on.
Phil: I’m sure they will. This open-ended contract to build Healthcare.gov was supposed to cost $94 million. Estimates now peg that cost at north of $600 million and problems persist.
Phil: Don’t you think this will create more doubt that health care run by the government is going to be cheaper and more accessible?
Ethan: These computer problems are not the beginning of the end of Obamacare. Just the opposite. In fact, what we now know is that Obama was correct to push for universal affordable health care, as millions have expressed interest. Way more than anyone expected. But when the system is fixed, you’ll see that tens of millions will finally get proper health care and receive treatment in less costly settings than the emergency room. That will result in lower costs for everyone and a healthier nation as a whole.
Phil: While I hope you are correct, please forgive my skepticism when I say this: If doctors, hospitals, drugs, etc. are expensive now, how is it going to be cheaper to pay for all these and the government bureaucrats to run them?
Ethan: It’s going to be cheaper because the government will control all of these costs by making the delivery system more streamlined, just as it is for Medicare. Additionally, the increased costs for the uninsured will go away and competition through the exchanges will finally create true market-based pricing.
Phil: Just not sure why the government has to mandate competition. I think the market does a pretty good of dealing with that itself.
Ethan: We have tried that system for 100 years and so far it hasn’t worked in health care.
Phil: But let’s remember, ObamaCare is a product we are required to buy. Not much “market-based” about a requirement to purchase.
Ethan: Yes, it is a product we are now required to purchase, but it is also a product most everyone needs and wants. The problem has been affordability.
Phil: Well, unlike Apple or Microsoft, where competition and customer satisfaction rule, this is a government takeover. So, I’ll reserve final judgment until Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reveals how many people are satisfied and how the hundreds of new rules under construction affect the real marketplace.
Ethan: One interesting side note to this rollout is that in states where they chose to develop their own exchanges, they are seeing much greater success than those that chose to rely on the federal system. Do you think Gov. Paul LePage made a mistake not developing one of, by, and for Maine people?
Phil: I think LePage and 26 other governors made the right decision. The costs of running the exchange and the mountain of rulemaking out of Washington are still a mystery.
Ethan: Well, I am not sure why it would be so hard. Almost 20 states did it on their own and have great success, plus the federal government footed the bill.
Phil: At least you’re candid. And, in that spirit, let me say that if things don’t turn around and 30 million people don’t buy health insurance by this time next year, this will be the biggest boondoggle in history. If, on the other hand, these results occur, I’ll be the first to acknowledge my unfounded skepticism.
Ethan: Can’t wait to see you enjoy a big slice of humble pie.
Phil: Sure hope I don’t have to administer one of those Obama ass-kicking’s if this becomes what Democratic U.S. Sen Max Baucus described as a “train wreck.”