Here are the biggest three questions Americans deserve to know about the incompetent management and craven politics behind the Affordable Care Act:
1. What did President Obama know (and why didn’t he know more) about the broken website? The $400 million-plus online marketplace fueling his signature legislative achievement is a bust. Its failure threatens to undermine the public’s confidence in Obamacare, which could dampen sign-up rates and undercut the goal of providing affordable health care to 40 million Americans. The site launched despite internal warnings that it was not ready. When did the president realize his site was a joke?
In “the first couple of days” after the site went live Oct. 1, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told CNN.
“But not before that?” CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta asked.
“No, sir,” she replied.
That is either a lie, which would be unforgivable. Or it reveals an unfathomable lack of oversight. For a breakdown of this magnitude to go undetected by Sebelius and her boss, there must be severe gaps in the management systems of the Obama administration that any first-year MBA student could ferret out. Even Democrats are asking, how could they let this happen?
2. Why wasn’t Jeffrey Zients brought in months ago? The White House announced Monday that the former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget will oversee the effort to fix the site. Zients, who also served as the White House’s first chief performance officer, is an accomplished manager and trouble-shooter, the perfect talent to oversee the launch of a historic health care plan before it hits the skids. Sebelius didn’t do her job, but still has one. What signal does that lack of accountability send to other leaders inside the Obama administration? What does it tell uninsured Americans about the president’s ability and determination to implement his law?
3. Why are Republicans playing politics with Obamacare? For the act to benefit the largest number of uninsured Americans, states must expand Medicaid coverage to anyone who earns up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level in 2014, which is $15,282 for a single person this year. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to opt out of the provision. Determined to undermine the bill and deal Obama a political blow, Republican governors and legislators have refused to accept the federal dollars that would finance it. Millions of low-income Americans, mostly in the South, will remain uninsured, victims of zero-sum gain politics.
This week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich became the tenth Republican governors to defy his party and expand Medicaid, going against his Republican-led legislature. “I believe [expanding Medicaid] is a matter of life and death,” Kasich told the Cincinnati Enquirer in July. “It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when.” He’s right. His Medicaid-denying colleagues are wrong.
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Along party lines, the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to tighten privacy standards for Internet service providers. "The regulations will require providers to receive explicit customer consent before using an individual’s web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes. The broadband industry fought to keep that obligation out of the rules."
President Obama commuted the sentences of another 98 drug offenders on Thursday. Most of the convicts were charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs or possession with intent to distribute. Many of the sentences were commuted to expire next year, but some will run longer. Others are required to enroll in residential drug treatment as a condition of their release.
The Department of Justice announced today it's charged "61 individuals and entities for their alleged involvement in a transnational criminal organization that has victimized tens of thousands of persons in the United States through fraudulent schemes that have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. In connection with the scheme, 20 individuals were arrested today in the United States and 32 individuals and five call centers in India were charged for their alleged involvement. An additional U.S.-based defendant is currently in the custody of immigration authorities."
Evan McMullin, the independent conservative candidate who may win his home state of Utah, is quietly planning to turn his candidacy into a broader movement for principled conservatism. He tells BuzzFeed he's "skeptical" that the Republican party can reform itself "within a generation" and that the party's internal "disease" can't be cured via "the existing infrastructure.” The ex-CIA employee and Capitol Hill staffer says, “I have seen and worked with a lot of very courageous people in my time [but] I have seen a remarkable display of cowardice over the last couple of months in our leaders.” McMullin's team has assembled organizations in the 11 states where he's on the ballot, and adviser Rick Wilson says "there’s actually a very vibrant market for our message in the urban northeast and in parts of the south."