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ObamaCare Clusterfuck: White House lies like a rug about the ObamaCare application form, right on!

Wowsers. I'm just shocked.

To understand why "Yeah, really" is a lie, you have to know a little detail:

The three-page form only applies to some applicants, and not all. Quoting (of all people) Ezra Klein:

The new form is short because it’s only for a single adult. But if you head to the HHS Web site, you can find the new form for family coverage. It, too, is shorter: A mere 12 pages rather than 21. But it only includes the forms for … two people. If your family includes more than two people, the form advises you to “make a copy of Step 2: Person 2 (pages 4 and 5) and complete.”

The result is that the new form for a family of six is 20 pages long and includes a substantial amount of time spent in front of a copier.

So the new form really is less intimidating for single adults, who now get an application catering to them. But it’s a bigger pain in the neck for a family of four, who now get an application catering to families of two — and to a media that equates fewer pages with better forms and laws. As larger families will now find out, shorter and simpler are not actually synonyms.

But, see, a family of six doesn't matter because they won't help with Obama's precious actuarial value* and singles, who skew disproportionately young (and invincible), do.

However, the 3-page form does have an interesting history. First, the change from the earlier form (that would have included all families) to the 3-page form definitely threw a monkey wrench into software development for the exchanges, since it was a change that came at a late date:

But [Connecticut] officials have learned that good news can have a downside. The state agency spent weeks reprogramming its Web site after the federal government shrank the insurance application from 21 pages to three.

Second, it looks like the decision to move from the 22- to the 3-page from was Obama's. From his April 30 presser (I'll include the notes):

And immediately everybody sat around the table and said: 'Well, this is too long, especially, you know, in this age of the Internet. People aren't going to have the patience to sit there for hours on end. Let's streamline this thing.'

So we cut what was a 21-page form now down to a form that's about three pages for an individual, a little more than that for a family,1 well below the industry average.2 So those kinds of refinements, we're going to continue to be working on.3, 4

  1. And because of Obama's public relations push, families with more than two members are going to end up xeroxing extra copies of the forms.
  2. And because of Obama's public relations push, states that were furthest ahead on their implementations are penalized by having to go back and recode for the new form.
  3. In other words, top management is going to keep changing the requirements up until the very last minute. At least in some software development methodologies, that is not a recipe for success. (Readers, do any of you know what methodology the developers of the Federal Exchange are using?)
  4. The revised form is also simplified, in that many of the eligibility questions asked on the first version are now calculated from data supplied from outside the health exchange system. (For example, data can be grabbed from IRS computers instead of making the applicant fill in a blank.) However, that means that the simplified form is a gamble on a fully functional back-end system.

So, in my reading, the "everybody" that "sat around the table" includes Obama, as does the "we" in "we cut." So that means that Obama is responsible for any delays in the rollout that this decision had. It also means that if Obama approves the content for -- and it looks like "A Better Bargain" is campaign material, so I bet he did -- he's also responsible for the lie in "Yeah, really," since he knows the 3-page form does not apply to everyone.

It's hard work, unpacking the lies. Ya know, after 10 years of doing that, one administration starts to seem an awful lot like all the others. Why is that, I wonder?

NOTE * Though why a government social insurance program should be evaluated with a yardstick that applies to private insurance companies is beyond me.

NOTE Note also the horrible "A Better Bargain" branding. I guess we're supposed to get excited because it's not a Grand Bargain? And how about that flaccid, vacuous pragmatism in "better"? "Better" in the way it's "better" to have the boot backed off my windpipe by an inch instead of crushing it?

UPDATE This also looks like some staffer thinking the boss's idea would be a great marketing tool. If the White House is the echo chamber people make it out to be, that would happen.

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propertius's picture
Submitted by propertius on

I am amused to note that the web page proudly displays the caduceus, the staff of Hermes (patron god of thieves), a symbol that has absolutely nothing to do with medicine (although it's often confused with the staff of Asclepius, which does). There's a lesson there about attention to detail ;-).