Emerging failure

Arnold Kling discusses the Obamacare website troubles here and here. I agree with his view. In fact, it ties in with my recent posts about bottom-up vs. top-down.

From the first post:

Start by asking why it is that Healthcare.gov is not as good as Amazon.com or Kayak.com. One answer is that the government is not good enough at deploying information technology. However, I think that is only a shallow answer.

The deeper answer is that when we look at Kayak and Amazon, we are seeing the survivors that emerged from an intense tournament. In this tournament, thousands of competing firms fell by the wayside. Competitors tried many different business models, web site designs, business cultures, and so on.

Healthcare.gov did not emerge from this sort of competition. It came about because Congress passed a law.

From the 2nd post:

The progressives are much less forgiving of the Obama Administration’s management failures than are the rest of us. Some of us saw the problem as baked into the law. It was pointed out that the law mentions the word “web site” over 130 times, which is an indication of how complex the requirements could be. I made my point that Amazon and Kayak emerged out of a tournament involving thousands of companies. I said that if Obamacare had been a private-sector start-up, its odds of success would have been less than one in a thousand. Others pointed out that in the private sector you usually start with a small, minimally-functional prototype, not with a full-blown, full-featured system. Still others pointed out that the features of Obamacare are so tightly interconnected that it required perfect execution, which was extremely unlikely.

The progressives (especially those over age 40) wanted instead to emphasize the fundamental management flaws, such as not having a strong executive in charge of the project. They insist that Obamacare could have worked. Clearly, to suggest otherwise was to cast some doubts about the progressive approach.


6 thoughts on “Emerging failure

  1. The problem with Obamacare is NOT one of operational failures. I thank God that a system designed to redistribute the hard EARNED wealth of working Americans to moochers like this:

    is operating poorly.

    The problem with Obamacare is that it is de facto socialism. As Lucy, the moocher on the YouTube interview, coherently and correctly points out – and the foolish interviewers miss – the issue is one of incentives. Morals are nice. However, unlike incentives, which we can legislate, we cannot legislate morality. When we enact laws that give people more incentives to avoid work and mooch off of others and fewer incentives to produce, it’s no surprise that fewer people produce and more people mooch. Lucy may be a moocher, but she’s made an intelligent, rational decision based on incentives. What’s more, she’s honest about it – which raises her above the level of most politicians. She’s even insightful enough that when questioned about whether or not she would want her kids to choose work or welfare, she reflects that she would not oppose her kids’ decision to work if they wanted.

    • Interesting. I agree. It’s annoying when people who support such welfare programs say, “nobody would choose not to work for that piddly amount.”

      Not only have they not done their homework to find out just how much the ‘piddly’ amounts can be, but they’ve also failed to empathize with situations other than their own and consider how others may view the welfare and trade-offs of working on the margin. As Lucy points out, she doesn’t work because it costs her too much of the benefits.

      I think Lucy asks an excellent question though, to help people see her point. “If someone is going to give you a million dollars for nothing, would you turn it down?” No. Few would. Incentives matter.

      She also mentions that they inform her of other benefits. And, obviously, they’ve removed shame from the equation.

      And, while I agree with you that incentives and feedbacks is what dooms redistribution and socialist programs, I don’t think that those incentives played as big a part in the website problems.

  2. By now, I suspect that most regular Dinner Table attendees will have either heard or heard of Ezekiel Emanuel’s (Obama’s architect of ObamaCare) 12/08/2013 response on Fox News Sunday to Chris Wallace’s question about Obama’s promise that we could keep our doctors if we like them, that Obamacare will necessarily LIMIT our choice of doctors and that we can only get the doctors of our choice IF we are willing to PAY MORE.

    Here’s a link to the transcript and video:


    This was discussed on Hannity’s show last night. When Sean Hannity made the point that Obamacare was supposed to lower costs and allow us to keep our doctor and our health care plan. Flustered by the facts, liberal pundit, Juan Williams, fired back that before Obamacare insured people like Hannity had to bear the cost of the uninsured in the form of higher premiums.

    What is lost in William’s argument is the fact that the “higher premiums” that we pay for those who are uninsured are already a part of our current pre-Obamcare premiums, i.e. if we didm’t have O’care, our premiums wouldn’t go up because of uninsured people – they are ALREADY up. However, as the vast majority of Americans have found out – and more will discover in 2014 – the premiums (and other costs due to higher deductibles and copays) under Obamacare will be even higher. So, Obamacare isn’t saving us money by making sure that everyone has insurance. It’s actually costing us (those who work and buy their insurance versus those who get theirs via government wealth transfer) more. And now we find out that if we want to be able to have a choice of doctor – especially the best doctors (who we did have access to before and who accepted our insurance plans) – it will cost even more.

    So, Juan William’s argument was really a red herring. The “you’ll pay higher premiums due to the uninsured” bogey man repeatedly gets trotted out by the left and I’m surprised that nobody brings up the point that this cost is already a part of our premiums whereas Obamacare will actually increase premiums from where they are now.

    • Good point. Though, I guess they could make the argument that those costs were paid partially by premiums and partially from taxes, and now more will be paid from premiums.

      Even if that’s true, still a smug answer from Williams. Especially when so many of the problems could have been solved by reforming the previous and many government distortions that cause there to be so many uninsured.

  3. Pingback: A million dollar question | Our Dinner Table


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