Obamacare (As Seen On TV)

Published October 22, 2013

Well, that was embarrassing.

On Tuesday morning, the President of the United States became a salesman, hawking Obamacare in an “As Seen On TV” performance that would have Billy Mays cringing.

President Obama was forced into the White House Rose Garden appearance by the deluge of news stories — a deluge that would have started two weeks earlier but for the government shutdown — about the utter failure of the Obamacare website, healthcare.gov.

Americans can’t log in, can’t set up accounts, can’t get through the security questions, can’t get basic information without giving the government personal information, and most of the time, if they get that far, can’t find a good product at a good price. Instead, the few plans that have nominally small monthly premiums come with enormous deductibles and cost-sharing.

Polls showed, as liberals will remind you giddily, that Obamacare’s popularity increased during the government shutdown. Now that the shutdown is over, the issue of the disaster that is federal government involvement in health insurance will become disconnected from the (un)popularity of the Tea Party or Ted Cruz or even President Obama. The brief moment of hope for Obamacare supporters will quickly fade.

Even the most “mainstream” of media sources are pushing headlines such as “Obama pledges quick fixes for health care site” and “Obama admits flaws in website but defends law.”

The cesspool of Obamacare is leaving a stench on a president who, despite feeling a momentary surge of post-shutdown victory, is in the midst of a yearlong decline in popularity. On Monday, Gallup reported that “President Barack Obama averaged a 44.5% job approval rating during his 19th quarter in office, a decline of more than three percentage points from his 18th quarter. That is one of the largest quarter-to-quarter declines of his presidency…”

All this forced Obama to the stage on Monday, introduced by the first person to buy health insurance through the Obamacare exchange in Delaware (one wonders if she is the only one), trying to convince Americans to buy his faulty product from a barely-functional website that was designed by an over-paid Canadian company supervised by Obama campaign staffers and bureaucrats rather than IT professionals. Even Jon Stewart is ridiculing the Obamacare website’s repeated failures. A new poll says that 12 percent of Americans believe the Obamacare rollout is going well. (I wonder what percentage of them work for HHS and never watch the news.)

But it’s hard to sell a product less user-friendly than Chop Magic and less credible than the Deluxe Spin Mop.

I mean, I actually have some interest in chopping an onion quickly and without tears. And the Chop Magic doubles as a six-cup mixing and measuring container! Now that’s a benefit I can believe in. Unlike, for example, “free” birth control.

When you read some of Barack Obama’s “As Seen On TV” lines, you can’t help but think of Billy Mays selling OxiClean (“It’s Amazing!”), or Vince “the hooker bit my tongue” Shlomi pitching the ShamWow (“It sells itself!):

  • “(T)he Affordable Care Act is not just a website. It’s much more.”
  • “You may not know it, but you’re already benefiting…”
  • [Y]ou can get health insurance for what may be the equivalent of your cellphone bill or your cable bill. And that’s a good deal.”
  • “[U]nlike the day after Thanksgiving sales for the latest PlayStation or flat-screen TVs, the insurance plans don’t run out.” (He neglected to note that you don’t have to keep paying for a PlayStation every month.)
  • “The product, the health insurance, is good. The prices are good. It is a good deal.”
  • “The phone number for [healthcare.gov] call centers is 1-800-318-2596.”

Yes, the President of the United States gave — and then repeated — an 800-number for Americans who can’t use his program’s website to call in order to be told how many weeks of bureaucracy they’ll have to muddle through to buy an over-priced product whose primary “benefit” will be to make sure that the costs of pre-existing conditions are dumped on everybody else. After all, why should my illness be my financial problem when I can make it your financial problem?

As if this isn’t bad enough, even the phone number doesn’t work. The UK Daily Mail reports that “a number of tests by journalists ended with busy signals or dropped calls” and the Wall Street Journal says “we called the hotline on Monday and the automated menu redirected us to Healthcare.gov, which in turn told us to get in touch with someone at the call center.” Sean Hannity reached the phone number and was told that the web site will be down for two days, and that an application can only be taken over the phone if an account is set up online first; the friendly operator noted that nobody actually likes the Obamacare exchange. (I wonder if she still has her job, given the vindictiveness of this administration.)

So even Obama’s solution to the website debacle accomplishes little but wasting our time. But then what do you expect from a phone number which can also be given as 1-800-F1U-CKYO?