Who To Blame For Healthcare.Gov

Three times this month in different venues, I have made statements about my abhorrence of creating scapegoats.  My rationale is based on two general factors.  First, some things just need to be fixed regardless of what or who caused the problem.  Second, often the problem is the actual system itself and focusing blame upon a single individual or single component allows the real problems to go unnoticed and thus the problems perpetuate long after the scapegoat has left the picture.

In one written forum, my opinion received a positive response with others providing examples of how different things appeared on the surface compared to what they discovered after venturing beneath that surface.

In a second written forum and at another verbal presentation, my opinion met staunch criticism and opposition.  Criticism and opposition do not bother me.  Most criticism to me is constructive as I become aware to weaknesses and holes of which I may or may not be aware.  Even deconstructive criticism which tears one down to the core can be positive as it offers an opportunity to reconstruct from a more solid foundation.  Opposition makes things exciting and opens new doors for discovery.  I would not enjoy a world where everyone looked like me, thought like me, or agreed with me.  Everything has positives and negatives, and a key to happiness is finding and building upon those positives to limit the effect of the negatives.

Now everyone has the privilege or right if you prefer to disagree, criticize, or oppose.  The thing is, however, if the disagreement, criticism, or opposition is the ultimate goal or if  the is purpose to change the way things are?  To me the expression of negativity is meaningless and useless if that is all there is.  If one has no intention to clean up a mess, fix something that is broken, or an honest desire to improve what you oppose then what is accomplished?  Without context too many meanings exist, and without knowledge of the system as a whole the single segment one thinks is the problem may be the only component actually functioning as it should within the system as it exists.

As a general concept, I agree with the premise of Affordable Care because I feel that a society is only as strong as its weakest residents.  Opportunities such as education and health care should not limited to specific segments.

Specifically I have written about the actual law known as Obamacare.  Personally I feel that both positives and negatives exist within that law.  As I have noted elsewhere, in my opinion personally and professionally, after reading the actual law on the books multiple times, the law could be a lot better in areas but also a lot worse.  Some of my other posts cite examples.

Who To Blame?

In reference to the 1 October website launch and logistics there have been problems; far too many problems in my opinion.  Depending upon one’s political ideology multiple scapegoats in the forms of individuals or technological practices have emerged.  List any of these surface scapegoats, and I’m confident that inside the classroom I could play the professorial “Devil’s Advocate” role and either construct further or begin to deconstruct any on the list.  Unless one moves to a radical extreme, most of these scapegoats have some degree of legitimacy for being singled out for a portion of blame.

My point is that these surface scapegoats draw attention away from the issue which exponentially increases the problems.  That issue is the system.  Now some of the criticisms levied at me are always “making excuses” for events by bringing in additional material and that eople like me are the problem because we complicate what should be clear.

Looking at issues while having an academic historical background in US Political History, an understanding and access to further material on the theoretical Political Science processes with a wife who is a political scientist, and having been a part of government at different levels and real world experience with many of these procedures and systems, I state with utmost confidence that few simple answers that you find in the textbooks and manuals exist in practice and that emotional feelings for or against rarely answer the questions posed.  Those are not excuses but the reality and the context of what is a multi layered and convoluted system by necessity in many instances and by stupidity and deceptive reliance upon ignorance in others.

With healthcare.gov to try and fix the problems both now and in the future, one needs to look beyond the current political battles and the actual piece of legislation.

There are multiple starting points, but since most people will probably agree that “the website just don’t work like it’s supposed to” idea I would start with understanding how CGI became responsible for designing most of the dysfunctional web portal.  To do that, one needs to be familiar with the bidding process for Federal contracts.  That is  enjoyable reading akin to passing a kidney stone in my view, but in this particular case things like this website move beyond the standard bidding procedures to what is known as RFP which means Request for Proposals.  An introduction to the RFP guidelines starts here, and this is comparable to a classic head cold in my opinion when you continue on through the “next ups” clicks at the bottom of each page.

Now with a brief, and that is brief, intro to the RFP Process, we can tie in some historical points which impact the procedure.

Way way back in time, actually the administration of my birth, President Richard Nixon signed a bill passed by Congress which created the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to assist Congress and other Federal government entities by providing expert and non partisan analysis of complex scientific and technological issues.  Many countries duplicated the OTA model in their own governments.

In 1995 as Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich in accordance to the GOP Contract with America helped push legislation to restrict OTA funding.  The 104th Congress closed the agency in September of 1995.

I encourage readers to look up reactions at the time to that decision.  My sources lean heavily in one direction and would possibly quickly sway your opinion and squelch a desire to read alternative perspectives.  Some of those alternative perspectives are presented and argued quite well, but over the years my personal reviews of these opinions has become more negative as science and technology have advanced while basic knowledge of certain scientific principles appear to have dwindled.  The reports and publications of the OTA are housed at Princeton University, and you can learn more of those primary documents here.

From 1995 we can jump to the administration of George W. Bush and the year 2007 when the Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Medicare and Medicaid approved 16 companies to be qualified to deliver a variety of hardware, software, and communication products and services without going through any public bidding process.  If you chose to allow your cold of reading through RFP to turn into pneumonia or the flu, you reached government terminology for Indefinite Delivery and Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ), which allows for this navigational excursion through the process.

CGI was one of the 16 companies to receive this approval back in 2007 which starts the path to their receiving the contract for healthcare.gov.

The Washington Post had this piece on CGI and the website mess.

Does CGI drink Obama Kool Aid or Republican Tea?

Look at the PAC Party Split by cycle, 48 percent to Democrats and 52 percent to Republicans.  Break it down by Chamber, and is it shocking that Democrats received more support in the Senate where they hold the majority and Republicans received more support in the House where they hold the majority?

What is the contract seeking process like inside the bubble?  This Washington Post article offers a glimpse.

Can We the People learn anything from this?  Another Washington Post article has some thoughts.

If what you are saying are facts, and you are not making excuses and the type of person who actually makes all these problems possible, why is there little about RFPs and bidding in the media?

Well, it’s not as exciting as levying blame upon an individual.  It does not stir emotions for partisan political purposes.  I’m not the only person who is looking at the big picture and thinking that these oversight hearings are a horror story in that these House Members whether trying to show up or defend those testifying have no clue about the technological issues.

From The Center for Public Integrity:

An Op Ed from the New York Times which received as much coverage as the LAB Louisiana boy blog.

Sadly, too many things are determined by who passes the money.  Unfortunately for the United States, it seems that in the political world patriotism and loyalty are becoming more associated with Political Party and not to country.