Media Buzz

ObamaCare Meltdown: Even media liberals are appalled

Oct. 2, 2013: The Affordable Care Act  signup page on the website.

Oct. 2, 2013: The Affordable Care Act signup page on the website.  (REUTERS)

Now that we’re all sick of talking about the shutdown, the spotlight is returning to what would have been the top story without the 16-day government closure.

Ladies and gentlemen, ObamaCare is still screwed up.

Get a load of this melodramatic lead: “A broken website imperils the largest expansion of the American safety net since the Great Society.

“More than two weeks into the disastrous rollout of, the website created by President Barack Obama's health care reform law still isn't working right….But the administration won't disclose exactly what's wrong with the health insurance exchange website, or when consumers can expect to see the promise of convenient, one-stop shopping for health benefits and financial assistance fulfilled.”

That’s not from some right-wing website. It’s the Huffington Post, whose home page is usually plastered with pro-administration headlines.

I think we have to stop using the word “glitches” to describe what’s going on. This is far more serious than too many people at the outset crashing the site. 

This is a meltdown of the first order that really does threaten the president’s signature priority. If the problems are ironed out and millions sign up for the federal exchanges, this period will just be an unpleasant interlude. But at this point, administration officials don’t seem to have a handle on the magnitude of the debacle.

The president used the G-word, telling KCCI-TV in Des Moines that the rollout has had “way more glitches than I think are acceptable.” But it’s much deeper than that. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

“Insurers say the federal health-care marketplace is generating flawed data that is straining their ability to handle even the trickle of enrollees who have gotten through so far, in a sign that technological problems extend further than the website traffic and software issues already identified.

“Emerging errors include duplicate enrollments, spouses reported as children, missing data fields and suspect eligibility determinations, say executives at more than a dozen health plans. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Nebraska said it had to hire temporary workers to contact new customers directly to resolve inaccuracies in submissions. Medical Mutual of Ohio said one customer had successfully signed up for three of its plans.”

Robert Gibbs nailed it when he said on MSNBC that this was a huge embarrassment and that some people should be fired. When Gibbs was hired as a network commentator, I wondered whether he would merely be a flack for his former boss. 

So a tip of the hat to the former White House press secretary. Other liberals at MSNBC, such as the Washington Post’s Gene Robinson, are also saying the rollout is a mess.

Many conservatives are rooting for ObamaCare to fail. Some states with GOP governors are not cooperating with the program. But what has happened since the rollout falls squarely in the category of self-inflicted wound—and may be accomplishing what Ted Cruz could not.

Sebelius Siblings

When your job is secure, it seems to me, you don’t go trotting out your brother and sister to defend you.

In the wake of the disastrous ObamaCare rollout, I don’t know how the siblings of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came to be quoted by the New York Times

But with the White House proclaiming “full confidence” in her, their response to calls for her to step down suggested she was taking no chances:

“In an interview, Ms. Sebelius’s older brother, Donald D. Gilligan, said, ‘I don’t think you resign in the middle of a fight…The fact that people are calling for her head does not surprise her or alarm her particularly.’…

“The secretary’s sister, Ellen M. Gilligan, said, ‘To my knowledge, she is not going to resign,’ despite the ‘wishful thinking’ of some Republicans.”

Well, the Sebelius family is certainly behind her.

One Shutdown Winner

The 16-day government closure ticked off plenty of people, but boosted cable news.

“MSNBC, which has struggled in this post-election year, saw its average prime-time viewership jump 35 percent to 978,000 this month through Wednesday, compared to the first nine months of the year, the Nielsen company said. Fox, which chose not to make any of its reporters available for this story, was up 9 percent to 2.22 million in the same period (although the network also benefited from a prime-time schedule change this month). CNN improved by 11 percent to 721,000.”

Twitter Turnover

I love Twitter—well, most of the time—but it’s not for everyone. Some folks who aren’t in the media/political/celebrity business find it puzzling.

And with the company moving toward its IPO, these figures are troubling:

“According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 36 percent of 1,067 people who have joined Twitter say they do not use it, and 7 percent say they have shut their account. The online survey, conducted October 11 to 18, has a credibility interval, a measure of its accuracy, of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points.

“In comparison, only 7 percent of 2,449 Facebook members report not using the online social network, and 5 percent say they have shut down their account. The results have a credibility interval of 2.3 percent.

“People who have given up on Twitter cite a variety of reasons, from lack of friends on the service to difficulty understanding how to use it.”

Online surveys are problematic, but Twitter has to figure out how to be more useful to more people.

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.