Sorry Isn't Good Enough

Kathleen Sebelius' "I'm so sorry" testimony gave us no sense of her plan to fix Obamacare.

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The Obama administration must sandbag the flood of apologies flowing out of 200 Independence Avenue, the home of the Department of Health and Human Services. Fixing Healthcare.gov, or what should be renamed Discombobulation.com, isn't about apologies. It's about action.

Kathleen Sebelius' meaningless, vague "I'm so sorry" testimony gave us no sense of her plan. We know nothing more now than we did when the story broke earlier this month. The site isn't working and a bunch of users aren't happy.

President Obama has been equally ineffective. His handling of the issue has deep-sixed his approval rating and made a mockery of his pitch to make government work for the people.

The GOP isn't helping matters either. The party's obsession with pink-slipping Sebelius, at least for now, is a non-sequitur. Her departure would create a power vacuum that would rip the rudder off the repair effort. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., made the right decision to subpoena the administration for Healthcare.gov's enrollment and testing data, information that I argued would give us a better understanding of the problem.  But his motivation isn't about generating a discussion about real fixes; it's about throwing more kerosene on the Sebelius fire.

[See a collection of political cartoons on Obamacare.]

Republicans would do well to reach for an opportunity to reform the federal contracting process. A recent study conducted by the Standish Group, a failure analysis firm, found that 94 percent of federal development projects have failed in the last decade. Healthcare.gov is just one of many examples of this trend. Others include the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey, a tilt-rotor military aircraft that has logged seven hull losses and 36 fatalities since the late 1990s, and Sam.gov, a $181 million website that launched in 2012 and only just started working properly.

One opportunity for reform is to eliminate the requirement that technology contractors maintain a separate business entity to provide government services. This requirement leaves out of the bidding mix a number of best-in-class development companies with a long history of building and launching gremlin-free digital properties. These companies are not interested in creating a separate division to win this business. Another reform would be to simplify the federal procurement policy, which is clogged with 1,800 pages over regulation.

Of course, expecting any one of our legislators to reach for this low-hanging fruit is about as likely as apples falling far from the tree. Until a large volume of citizens hit the polls and vote out incompetence, failure will remain the status quo. 

  • Read Susan Milligan: Congress Ignored Sebelius During the Obamacare Website Hearing
  • Read Penny Lee: How the Private Sector Could Fix the Obamacare Website Exchanges
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