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Romano: Terrible Obamacare rollout could imperil vital health reform

They took on the big money interests, and somehow won.

They fought the Republican Party for five long and difficult years. They were called before the Supreme Court, and later brought their case to the American public.

Each time, the architects of the president's health care reform prevailed.

And when there were no more battles to be fought, they paused briefly to reflect on their accomplishments before laying down their weapons.

And shooting themselves in the foot.

Has there ever been a less impressive victory lap than the opening steps of the Affordable Care Act?

These are not glitches, and they are not bugs. This is a debacle bordering on a disaster, and it is almost completely self-inflicted.

For the sake of clarity, however, it is important to point out that Obamacare is not yet the train wreck that your GOP representatives insisted it would be. In order for a train to wreck, it must first make it out of the station.

This is something different. In some ways, it is something worse.

For all the money, time and heartache it took to devise a plan to reform health care in America, how could the Obama administration possibly allow it all to be undermined by a website that was not only horribly flawed but obviously untested?

The president can try to minimize the problems, as he did last week, by saying the website is merely a tool and not the heart of the law.

But that explanation misses the point.

There were already far too many people ready to pounce on any sign of weakness in the Affordable Care Act to give them a neon color bull's-eye as large as this.

You could argue a few kinks in the website should have been expected. Even a week or so of problems could have been excused. But a full blown mess that could potentially lead to delays in the implementation of the law is completely inexcusable.

For what that does is damage the brand. It dampens whatever momentum the movement had. It ultimately makes you question Obamacare's credibility, and that is absolutely the worst-case scenario for a plan that was already breaking new ground.

It means these very real problems in execution could potentially get confused with the silly lies and scare tactics that self-serving critics have been spouting for years.

And if it causes the everyday worker to lose faith in this law, it will be a failure of epic proportions. Not just a failure for a president, but a failure for the American people.

Because no matter how you felt about the Affordable Care Act, you cannot deny it was an honest attempt to revamp a health care system that is horribly broken. And its potential demise would mean millions of Americans will continue to get lost in a health care maze.

That means the president has to fix this. Not the problems with the website, but the problems with the perception.

To do that, he is going to have to be more transparent. He is going to have to show a lot more humility. This is his law, the website is his responsibility and this is his problem.

So no more news conferences with smiling people standing behind him. No more suggestions that the website delays are no big deal.

Obamacare still has a chance to succeed and change lives, but folks at the White House are kidding themselves if they think the fight has already been won.

Romano: Terrible Obamacare rollout could imperil vital health reform 10/28/13 [Last modified: Monday, October 28, 2013 10:02pm]
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