Friday, June 22, 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: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18