Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out

Updated: Friday, October 25, 2013
Sports metaphors and the Obamacare roll-out story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - As discontent in the Democratic party grows over the implementation of Obamacare, government officials say they’re bringing in experts from silicon valley to help find a way out of the fiasco that signing up has become.

Tonight, in Tom’s Corner, Tom Van Howe says the administration’s handling of President Obama’s signature legislation is a “how-to” lesson in destroying credibility in record time.

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I’m not a big fan of sports analogies. But sometimes they work.

The late Casey Stengel comes to mind after watching President Obama and his team back-pedal, step up to the plate to accept responsibility, and then point the finger of blame at somebody else.

The administration has had three-and-a-half years to get things ready for this day—for this roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.

Forty-two months to have developed and tested and retested the billion-dollar, new technology that would allow millions of people to effortlessly sign on to, in so many cases, get the the kind of healthcare they’ve never had before.

More than 15,000 days to develop a pretty good sense of how much it would cost to work with insurance companies to gauge whether it would be cheaper or more expensive; to explain  in authoritative detail after detail to a country still divided over the issue.

If Casey Stengel were able to comment today, I suspect it would be similar to what he said about his inept New York Mets in 1968.

“Been in this game a hundred years, “ he said. “But I see new ways to lose ‘em I never knew existed before.”

Where in the world were these people in our nation’s capitol? You know, if there had been only six months to lay all the groundwork, we could say, “well, they did the best they could in the time allowed.”

I know the issue became red meat for conservatives. I know it went to the Supreme Court before becoming the law of the land. I know that had to be distracting.

But good grief! If we have the technology to bug the phone of the Chancellor of Germany, listen in to conversation all over Brazil and in France and who knows where else, you’re telling me we can’t build an Obamacare web site that works?! That works from the beginning?

Instead, look at what we have. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pointing her finger at the Canadian company who built the system.

Yeah, Canadian.

And that company pointing back at the administration and other companies who helped out.

Sebelius telling us no one—simply no one—and certainly not the President, knew before October 1st this thing would blow up as it did.

Only now is our government turning for advice to the world leaders in computer technology from Silicon Valley.

Today, we learn that we get an extra 45 days to sign up before facing a penalty. But not, we are told, because of the computer “glitch.” Of course not. It's because the public was confused about sign up dates. Really?

Meantime, insurance company insiders are telling CNN that they knew a long time ago that this thing was going to fall like a tent in a hurricane.

Also, today we learned that Sebelius and company are going to start a grassroots effort to boost enrollment in the system so many have already been turned away from.

Where was that effort six months—a year—ago? Honestly!

I believe our country is in desperate need of a well-run, cost-efficient, national healthcare system. But if what we’ve seen so far is any indication...Obamacare will be none of those things.

When he was with the Yankees, Casey Stengel sent a guy down to the minors because he was striking out too much. “Mister,” Stengel told a reporter, “that boy couldn’t hit the ground if he fell out an airplane.”

I think the same can be said about some key people in Washington. Its time to stop the strike outs and get some people on the team who can hit home runs. We’re obviously overdue.

In this corner...I’m Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on October 30, 2014 07:33 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. Economists forecast that weekly applications declined 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000.

Also today, the Commerce Department will release third-quarter gross domestic product figures. Many economists predict that overall growth of the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, reached a healthy 3 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, according to a survey by data firm FactSet.

Freddie Mac will report on average mortgage rates for this week. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan slid to 3.92 percent.

There are four major companies that will report earnings today.

Altria Group and Mastercard will report quarterly financial results before the market opens.

Starbucks and LinkedIn Corp. will report quarterly earnings after the closing bell.

EARNS-SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Samsung Electronics Co. says its third-quarter income has plunged 49 percent to the lowest level in nearly three years as its handset business slows down.

Samsung says its net income for the July-September quarter was 4.2 trillion won ($4 billion), a sharp decline from 8.2 trillion won a year earlier. The income was the lowest since 2012 but above market expectations. Analysts polled by Factset expected 3.7 trillion won income.

Sales fell 20 percent to 47.4 trillion won while operating income shrank 60 percent to 4.1 trillion won.

Samsung warned earlier this month that its handset profit declined despite a marginal shipment increase. Analysts said the Galaxy S5 smartphone launched in April did not sell well while many consumers held off upgrading their phones, instead waiting for new iPhones.

CHINA-CREDIT CARDS

BEIJING (AP) -- China's Cabinet says it will ease restrictions on credit card processing in a move that might help to resolve a lengthy dispute with the United States over access for Visa, Mastercard and other foreign competitors.

A Cabinet announcement said "all qualified domestic and overseas enterprises" will be allowed to apply to set up credit card clearing operations. It gave no details of what qualifications would be required for a foreign competitor to be approved.

Beijing's restrictions have given a near-monopoly on credit card processing to a state-owned entity, UnionPay.

The World Trade Organization ruled two years ago the restrictions treated foreign competitors unfairly. The government said it would review the decision but did little to increase market access.

FACEBOOK-WHATSAPP FOUNDERS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton received 116 million shares of Facebook stock currently worth nearly $9 billion when they sold their mobile messaging service to the social networking leader earlier this month.

The breakdown of the big winners in Facebook Inc.'s $22 billion acquisition emerged Wednesday in a regulatory filing.

Koum, a Ukraine immigrant who was once living on welfare, reaped the biggest jackpot with 76.4 million Facebook shares now worth $5.8 billion. That makes him Facebook's fourth largest stockholder behind company CEO Mark Zuckerberg and two mutual funds, Fidelity Management and Vanguard.

Acton, who worked with Koum when they were both Yahoo Inc. engineers, owns 39.7 million Facebook shares worth $3 billion.

More than 45 other WhatsApp current and former employees also received Facebook stock.

FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For-profit colleges that don't produce graduates capable of paying off their student loans could soon face the wrath of the federal government.

Schools with career-oriented programs that fail to comply with the new rule being announced today by the Obama administration stand to lose access to federal student-aid programs.

To meet these "gainful employment" standards, a program will have to show that the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate doesn't exceed 20 percent of discretionary income, or 8 percent of total earnings.

The Education Department estimates that about 1,400 programs serving 840,000 students won't pass. Nearly all of these programs are offered by for-profit schools.

SUPREME COURT-HEALTH OVERHAUL-SUBSIDIES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court justices have their first chance this week to decide whether they have the appetite for another major fight over President Barack Obama's health care law.

Some of the same players who mounted the first failed effort to kill the law altogether now want the justices to rule that subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums under the law are illegal.

The challengers are appealing a unanimous ruling of a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, that upheld Internal Revenue Service regulations that allow health-insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states. The appeal is on the agenda for the justices' private conference on Friday, and word of their action could come as early as Monday.

AIRBAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- The U.S. government's auto safety agency, responding to criticism of its slow response to safety issues, has told the manufacturer of millions of potentially faulty air bags to make replacement parts faster and do more testing to find the cause of the problem.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent letters Wednesday to Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. and 10 automakers seeking information in a widening air bag recall that now covers almost 8 million U.S. vehicles.

The vehicles are equipped with Takata air bags that can potentially inflate with too much force, blowing apart metal canisters and sending shards flying at drivers and passengers. Safety advocates say four people have died due to the problem.

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