The Hated White Whale of Obamacare

This week it seems that the Republican party has had a tough time going after the hated white whale of Obamacare. A centerpiece of Obamacare, the website hit the public stage as an absolute train wreck on October 1. But Republicans kept that train wreck out of the headlines by creating a crisis with the debt ceiling and government shutdown. All in the name of fighting Obamacare.

In so doing, they not only saved Obama from a ton of negative press about his prized initiative, they also drove the Republican party’s reputation to historic lows.

For those who are interested in what went wrong with, experts from the tech sector have some perspective to offer. They say that the core problem can be found in a fundamental difference between tech start-ups and big government contracts. Tech start-ups begin small and stay nimble, testing their way to functioning reliably.

Big government contracts require the full scope to be laid out in advance, leaving little room for learning along the way from little failures. And the highly political environment doesn’t really celebrate learning from mistakes.

So now we have an electronic marketplace for health insurance that’s become a joke. It works so badly that many people are relying on the last century’s technology instead — telephones, pens, and paper forms.

And so far, just like Ahab, the Republicans seem to be harming themselves by their obsession with killing Obamacare. They’ve bought time for the Obama team to get its ducks in a row.


Click here to read more about the political battle in the New York Times, click here to read an analysis of the technical problems with, and click here to read an analysis of some of the more systemic effects of Obamacare on healthcare delivery.

Beluga, photograph © Steve Snodgrass / flickr

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