At a recent White House science fair celebrating inventors, a Girl Scout who helped design a Lego-powered page-turning device asked President Obama what he had ever thought up or prototyped. Stumbling for an answer, he replied:
"I came up with things like, you know, health care."
Ah, yes. "Health care." Remember when the president's signature Obamacare health insurance exchanges were going to be the greatest thing since sliced bread, the remote control, jogger strollers, Siri, the Keurig coffee maker, driverless cars and Legos all rolled into one?
The miraculous, efficient, cost-saving, innovative 21st-century government-run "marketplaces" were supposed to put the "affordable" in Obama's Affordable Care Act. Know-it-all bureaucrats were going to show private companies how to set up better websites (gigglesnort), implement better marketing and outreach (guffaw), provide superior customer service (belly laugh), and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse (LOLOLOL).
You will be shocked beyond belief, I'm sure, to learn that Obamacare exchanges across the country are instead bleeding money, seeking more taxpayer bailouts and turning everything they touch to chicken poop.
Wait, that's not fair to chicken poop, which can at least be composted.
"Almost half of Obamacare exchanges face financial struggles in the future," The Washington Post reported last week. The news comes despite $5 billion in federal taxpayer subsidies for IT vendors, call centers and all the infrastructure and manpower needed to prop up the showcase government health insurance entities. Initially, the feds ran 34 state exchanges; 16 states and the District of Columbia set up their own.
While private health insurance exchanges have operated smoothly and satisfied customers for decades, the Obamacare models are on life support. Oregon's exchange is six feet under -- shuttered last year after government overseers squandered $300 million on their failed website and shady consultants who allegedly set up a phony website to trick the feds. The FBI and the U.S. HHS inspector general's office reportedly have been investigating the racket for more than a year now.
In the People's Republic of Hawaii, which has been a "trailblazer" of socialized medicine for nearly four decades, the profligate state-run exchange demanded a nearly $30 million cash infusion to remain financially viable after securing $205 million for startup costs. The Hawaii Health Connector accidentally disconnected hundreds of poor patients' accounts and squandered an estimated 8,000 hours on technological glitches and failures. Enrollment projections were severely overinflated like a reverse Tom Brady scandal. After failing to secure a bailout, Hawaii announced this week that its exchange would be shut down amid rising debt.
In Maryland, a state audit found that its health insurance exchange "improperly billed the federal government $28.4 million as former Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration struggled to launch what would become one of the most troubled websites in the nation," The Baltimore Sun reported in late March. That's in addition to the $90 million the state blew on technical problems. The state scrapped its junk website and forced enrollees to resubmit to the tortuous sign-up process all over again.
Last week, federal prosecutors subpoenaed the Massachusetts Obamacare exchange after whistleblowers there exposed what a "technological disaster" its "Health Connector" program was. Boston's Pioneer Institute senior fellow in health care, Josh Archambault, released a report on Monday detailing the "complete incompetence" of the state's health bureaucrats from Day One. But taxpayers would be lucky if incompetence were the only sin.
After firing the tech boneheads of CGI, the same company behind the federal healthcare.gov meltdown, Massachusetts officials "appear to have lied to the federal government to cover up mistakes" made by both the state and the IT company. "In at least two instances we uncovered," Archambault revealed, what the state told the feds "was either in direct conflict with internal audits or highly improbable given what was being said in the audit and what whistleblowers said was happening at the time."
As health care analyst Phil Kerpen of the free market group American Commitment points out, Massachusetts "already had a functioning state health exchange" but "after receiving $179 million from federal taxpayers" to reconstitute it under Obamacare, "they were able to break that existing exchange beyond repair." An amazing feat.
Lesson for inventive Scouts and students wondering about what people in Washington, D.C., prototype: Government bureaucrats don't make things, kids. They break things.