Senator Joe Manchin Working On Bill To Delay Obamacare Mandate Due To Website Woes
The Obama Administration has been pretty much the entire week dealing with questions surrounding what increasingly looks like a disastrous roll out for the Federal Health Care Exchange Website thanks largely to what are increasingly looking like non-trivial technical problems with the design of the website itself. Not surprisingly, Republicans have jumped all over the news and many have used the news to renew calls for delays in the law, especially in the individual mandate and its associated tax penalties. Essentially the argument has come down to the seemingly straight forward argument that people shouldn’t be penalized for not signing up for insurance if they’re basically unable to do so because the website is almost entirely nonfunctional for most people. It’s also become an almost daily question at the White House Press Briefing to the point where there are now suggestions that the Administration is looking to implement a short, six week, delay to allow people to get signed up given the technical failures at the website. One Democratic Senator, though, thinks the delay should be much longer:
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is working on legislation to effectively delay Obamacare’s individual mandate for one year, his office told TPM on Wednesday.
His spokesman, Jonathan Kott, said Manchin opposes a bill proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to delay the mandate for a more indefinite period of time while problems with the insurance exchanges persist.
“He doesn’t support the Rubio bill and is working on bill to delay the penalty for a year,” Kott said.
Other Democratic members of Congress have also been quietly hinting in recent days that they could also support a delay in the implementation or enforcement of the individual mandate given the problems with the website. Given the problems that the site has had, and what appear to be paltry enrollment numbers in many states around the country, this would seem to be an option that ought to be on the table. This would seem to be even more true given that even some of the most conservative estimates are saying that fixing what’s wrong with the website could take weeks to fix, if not longer. Other estimates are saying that the problems with the website, not only on its front end but also in the apparently faulty manner in which it is transmitting data to insurance providers, are so serious that it could take months to get everything working properly. If that last estimate is true, then it seems blindingly obvious that a lot of people are going to be unable to even do the basic research necessary to shop for insurance on the exchange before they decide which of the options offered to them they might be interested in. Fining them for failure to obtain insurance under those circumstances would seem to be a classic Catch-22.
The story of what exactly is going wrong with the PPACA marketplace roll out likely has many technology related aspects to it, but at its core it appears to be yet another example of government contracting gone wrong. By all accounts, real work on the site didn’t start until sometime early this year even though its been known for three years that the October 1, 2013 deadline was approaching. Additionally, there have been some serious questions raised about the main contractor for the project, a Canadian firm that had recently lost a contract with the Canadian government due to project problems before being signed on for this project. Finally, there were reports today that the project was further complicated less than six weeks before its debut date when the White House and HHS demanded changes to the project that would require users to create accounts on the site before being allowed to do any price shopping, something that goes against the design of pretty much every other e-commerce site on the Internet. Whatever the story, though, its pretty clear that there was some serious mismanagement here, if not downright incompetence. Indeed, given how badly this week has gone for the Obama White House, one wonders how the month of October would have gone if the GOP hadn’t let the story stay hidden with its insane shutdown strategy.