Accuracy in Media

odonnell on obamacare failure


On his program Thursday night, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell struggled to understand how a government that operates programs the size of Social Security and Medicare could fail so miserably when launching Obamacare, which is a fraction the size of those programs.

O’Donnell interviewed journalist Steven Brill about his article in Time magazine that discussed the problems with the Obamacare rollout, and the administration’s subsequent efforts to fix it.

O’DONNELL: This is a government that operates this giant thing called Social Security, Medicare, millions and millions of participants who are being tracked through the computer systems. It seemed like the government knew how to deal with millions of people this way.

BRILL: They do, and as you know, as you’ve been involved with this over the years, they’ve had some problems. For example, when Social Security was started, they had a tech problem. They had a computer problem. you know what it was? No one could figure out how to create enough different numbers for people.

O’DONNELL: Social Security numbers.

BRILL: There had to be 15 million numbers, they had to write it down on a piece of paper. So they’ve always known they have problems, but they tend to solve it in a better way than they did here. […]

If I were O’Donnell, I wouldn’t use Social Security and Medicare—two of the largest entitlement programs—as a model for what works in government.

But I wouldn’t be surprised if Obamacare, once it gets going, will operate much like Social Security and Medicare—lumbering bureaucracies plagued by benefit payments to dead people and the like, with the potential to overtake Medicaid as the largest entitlement program.

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