Who to Blame for the ACA (or, specifically, its glitches)?

In the days since the botched rollout of the ACA’s federal online health exchanges, HHS and the Obama administration have quite obviously received more than a little bad press. Recently, though, some government officials have started pushing back, and are arguing that the private sector is to blame for the failure of the federal exchanges.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, for instance, is set to testify before the House today, and apparently plans to tell representatives that private contractors are to blame for the failure of the exchanges. She argues that “a subset” of the involved contractors “have not met expectations.” Representative Henry Waxman has claimed that if heads are going to roll, it should be those of the contractors.

Part of this is a case of mistaking proximal cause for ultimate cause. It should go without saying that if a private contractor delivers a product that is substandard, then proximally they are responsible for the failure. (This gets a little muddier when you consider the fact that the government did not delay the act once its problems became obvious). I have to think that in this case, however, the ultimate cause is the government, since they were the ones who were ostensibly responsible for overseeing the implementation of the ACA in the first place. As the creators and overseers, most of the responsibility for any failure is ultimately going to land at their feet.

Anyway, Zero Hedge has nicely lampooned this set of affairs in a post titled “Obamacare Data Hub Crashes for Second Time in Three Days, Verizon Blamed Again.” The bolding is original, not mine.

The first and last time a critical data center for Obamacare crashed this past Sunday night , leading to healthcare.gov becoming completely inaccessible and thus halting enrollment (assuming there had been any in the first place but of course allowing the government to blame any lack thereof on Verizon), we said “whether or not Verizon fixes the glitch any time soon, or merely lets it linger, one thing is becoming obvious: the Obamacare delay, which was hard fought by the Teaparty, and which was so opposed by the administration leading to the grotesque 16 day government shutdown, has all but become a reality with every passing day. Only instead of someone actually taking responsibility, said delay will be scapegoated on Verizon’s data centers , faulty fiber-optic and copper cables, Cisco switches, Syrian hackers, millions of lines of faulty (Fortran?) code, inept contractors, end users who never read the Help.doc file, and everyone and everything else. Just never the government itself.” Once again, we were proven correct when overnight the Connecticut state healthcare exchange, “Access Health CT”, announced that the Obamacare data hub was “experiencing an outage” on Tuesday evening . The culprit – Verizon once again. Which answered our question: not Syrian hackers or Cisco but, conveniently, Verizon Terremark.

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