Saturday, February 21, 2015

Healthcare.Gov Glitches and Sons of Glitches

Glitch: An unexpected and usually minor problem with a machine or device (such as a computer: a false or spurious electronic signal. From the Yiddish, glitsh, a slippery place.

I see by the news that has developed another glitch. This glitch provides false tax information to 800,000 people receiving subsidies. Reports announcing this news are:

--Robert Pear, “800,000 Using Healthcare.Gov Sent Incorrect Tax Information,” New York Times, February 20, 2015.

--Louise Radnosky, “Obama Administration Extends Health Care Sign-Up Through April,” Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2015.

The federal responses, as usual and as expected are:

1) Delaying penalties for not having a health plan for another 7 weeks to the glitch can be corrected

2) Creating more exemptions to defuse political angst

3) Claiming the number of taxpayers involved are insignificant

4) Saying “We’re working on problem and will get it fixed evertually.".

On the latter point, some 11 million have signed on via, and 800,000 of 11 million amounts to only 7.4% of the total, and only 0.5% of 150,000 filing federal tax returns. According to the Wall Street Journal, the actual error rate, or the glitch rate, if you prefer, is roughly 20% for those receiving subsidies, if you include family members.

If you are an ObamaCare advocate, you will probably buy into the adminisration's communication strategy - announcing the good news with the bad news. ObamaCare, everybody recognizes, is a huge undertaking, involving 320 million Americans of every race, color, creed, health, and income status. Mistakes will inevitably be made, and glitches will crop up.

On the other hand, if you are a critic, you may point to the law of large numbers that says the more experiments you conduct involving large numbers of people the greater the probability you will get it right.

Unfortunately, as a matter of political pragmatism, you can only have so many delays, backtrackings, backings and fillings, revisions, corrections, redoings, undoings, revampings, extensions, surprises, headaches, extensions, waivers, exemptions before you get it right or before you arouse suspicions you don't know what you're doing.

But the political defusing process seems to be working. Only 2% to 4% of those receiving exemptions will end up paying a penalty for not having a plan.

If you are ordinary citizen , you may ask: Who, Oh Who, is responsible for these glitches? Why, Oh Why, do these glitches keep occurring? How, Oh How, and When, Oh When, will these glitches be corrected?

John Glenn, America’s first astronaut, defined a glitch as a spike or change in voltage of an electronic beam. With space travel, a computer glitch can be fatal. Here on earth, a computer glitch is merely politically embarrassing or economically discomforting, even devastating, to the small numbers involved.

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