Critics of the Affordable Care Act have seized on HealthCare.gov’s many glitches to argue that the federal government is incapable of managing a complex implementation process, saying that they predicted failure all along. But now some conservatives are pushing a far more conspiratorial explanation for the problem-riddled roll out: the Obama administration planned it that way.
The story was first surfaced on Avik Roy’s blog on Monday, which quoted an administration spokesperson explaining that the government forced users to create an account before applying for coverage to prevent users from discovering the unsubsidized cost of coverage. The decision led to a bottleneck of traffic, but “by analyzing your income first, if you qualify for heavy subsidies, the website can advertise those subsidies to you instead of just hitting you with Obamacare’s steep premiums,” Roy wrote.
The argument was soon picked up by Fox News. The network ran a segment on Tuesday morning explaining that the White House knew about potential glitches before HealthCare.gov launched on Oct. 1, “but did nothing to stop it because the White House doesn’t want to show you how expensive those plans really are.”
In other words, the administration purposely conspired to mismanage the implementation of its signature health care law in order to hide the true cost of coverage.
If that sounds too ridiculous to believe, it is. The administration may have hoped to immediately present consumers with their subsidized rates to reduce confusion, but it never tried to hide the unsubsidized cost of coverage. After all, it released a report touting average health care premiums five days before HealthCare.gov launched, and made all premium rates available on Oct. 1 through an Excel spreadsheet. Numerous media outlets reported on the unsubsidized rates that very day, including Fox News itself, and ThinkProgress used the information in its own coverage of the health care exchanges. In fact, in its segment about the first day of Obamacare enrollment, Fox News explained that it couldn’t project the cost of coverage for any particular family because a calculation depended on a “million different variables,” suggesting that raw premiums would be of little use to consumers.
Last week, HHS converted that raw data into a tool that allows consumers “an easy way to access that information, by providing basic information about themselves to see their options.” “Interested consumers will not have to supply personally identifiable information to view this information,” CMS explained in a statement, officially bringing the conspiracy to a close.