Monday, April 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Website debacle demands answers, fix

With government contractors deflecting blame for problems with the federal health insurance website, Congress and the American public deserve better answers, more accountability and a clearer path forward. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has an opportunity to clear the air and save her job when she appears before a congressional committee Wednesday. The success of health care reform is riding on getting the website to work properly before the difficulties force further delays and discourage the customers needed to make the system work as intended.

The Obama administration now promises an aggressive schedule for repairs to healthcare.gov, to be completed by the end of November. The causes of the complications fall into three categories: Separate parts of the site were constructed by dozens of private contractors without coordination and technically knowledgeable oversight; proper testing was not conducted in timely manner; and there was a reluctance to provide an accurate assessment of the site's deficiencies, which meant the first two problems weren't addressed before the site went public.

These issues are ultimately the fault of the Obama administration. But the finger-pointing should be tempered by the complexity of the task. Millions of people in 36 states, including Florida, are accessing the site to shop for health coverage. Unlike buying a television on Amazon.com, where everyone sees the same products and prices, the health insurance options and pricing depend on individual factors such as location, age and income. To operate properly, the site has to communicate with more than 170 insurers and a vast network of databases, including other federal agency computers that cross-check income and other information provided by insurance shoppers.

Private contractors involved in the site testified last week before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that the lack of coordination by the Obama administration compromised the launch. CGI Federal, the main contractor, said the parts may have been tested separately but the overall, integrated system was not fully tested until two weeks before it went live — a highly compressed time frame when the industry standard is months of preliminary testing.

It isn't clear if Sebelius knew of these problems when government officials were giving high-level briefings about the ease with which the uninsured would navigate the site. But among contractors there was an awareness that the site would not perform as promised — even though some of them had earlier assured Congress otherwise. Congressional Republicans contributed to the site's failure by blocking some of the money the administration needed to build the marketplaces that states were initially expected to create for themselves.

Sebelius should be prepared to fill the holes that remain in the story. It is important to know if she or others soft-pedaled the website's troubles when they knew it would not work properly. But the debacle is also an opportunity to learn from mistakes and streamline big technology programs in the future. The Affordable Care Act remains the most significant effort in generations to provide health care to millions of Americans. But the insurance marketplace website has to work, and the Obama administration has to accept responsibility for bungling the rollout and for ensuring the fixes are made. Fast.

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Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18