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 August 22, 2014 17:58 GMT

YELLEN

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen says the Great Recession complicated the Fed's ability to assess the U.S. job market and made it harder to determine when to adjust interest rates.

Yellen's remarks to an annual Fed conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, offer no signal that she's altered her view that the economy still needs Fed support from ultra-low interest rates. The timing of a Fed rate increase remains unclear.

She notes that while the unemployment rate has steadily declined, other gauges of the job market are harder to assess and may reflect continued weakness. These include high levels of people who have been unemployed for more than six months, many people working part time who would like full-time jobs and weak pay growth.

OBAMA-CONTRACEPTION

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration will offer a new accommodation to religious nonprofits that object to covering birth control for their employees. The measure allows those groups to notify the government, rather than their insurance company, that birth control violates their religious beliefs.

The government is also extending an existing accommodation to some for-profit corporations like Hobby Lobby that's currently available only to nonprofits. That accommodation requires groups to sign a form transferring responsibility for paying for birth control to their insurers or third-party administrators.

The dual decisions embrace suggestions included in recent Supreme Court rulings. But they're unlikely to go far enough to satisfy religious groups. That's because they would still make the groups complicit in a system that provides birth control through their organizations' health plans.

FITNESS DATA

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

San Francisco-based Fitbit said Friday that it has clarified its privacy policy to make it clear the company doesn't share information about its users.

Schumer raised concerns about the company's privacy policy earlier this month and called for federal rules to allow consumers to protect their data.

But the company said Friday that it's never sold private data and updated its online privacy policy to make that clear.

Schumer said Friday he hopes other manufacturers of wearable devices adopt similarly transparent rules.

Many Americans wear fitness bracelets and monitors or use mobile apps to monitor their activity.

MCDONALD'S-PRESIDENT

NEW YORK (AP) -- McDonald's has named a new president for its flagship U.S. division, marking the second change in less than two years.

The world's biggest hamburger chain says former McDonald's executive Mike Andres will replace Jeff Stratton, who is retiring, effective Oct. 15.

Stratton, 58, took over in late 2012 and replaced Jan Fields. That shakeup was made after McDonald's Corp. reported its first monthly sales drop in nearly a decade. Sales in the U.S. have remained weak ever since, with the company facing intensifying competition and changing eating habits.

McDonald's has said it's working on fixing basics, such as the speed of service and order accuracy.

Andres, 56, will report directly to CEO Don Thompson. Andres was most recently CEO of Logan's Roadhouse Inc.

DEERE-LAYOFFS

MOLINE, Ill. (AP) -- Agricultural equipment maker Deere is laying off about 460 employees indefinitely from an Iowa tractor factory as it continues to adjust to market demand.

The Moline, Illinois, company said Friday the latest round of layoffs will be effective October 20. Deere said last week that it would lay off more than 600 employees at four Midwest factories that make harvesting and other agricultural equipment due to slumping demand.

Deere & Co. is the world's biggest farm equipment supplier and employs about 67,000 people globally.

It said earlier this month that it planned to reduce agricultural equipment production for the remainder of the year.

Company shares are down 63 cents to $85.58 in early trading.

KRAFT-KEURIG

NEW YORK (AP) -- Keurig Green Mountain says it struck a deal to make Kraft's branded coffees, such as Maxwell House and Gevalia, for its single-serve brewing systems in the U.S.

The companies did not disclose financial terms of the deal.

Keurig, based in Waterbury, Vermont, makes at-home brewing machines that let people make cups of coffee one serving at a time. The company is also working on a machine that would let people make cold, carbonated drinks at home, and has partnered with Coca-Cola to let people make various Coke drinks at home.

Kraft had also announced a deal to distribute packaged McDonald's coffee to supermarkets and other retailers. That deal will mean people will also be able to make McCafe drinks with Keurig machines.

Shares of Keurig rose 9 percent to $127.79.

DYNEGY-ACQUISITION

Dynegy to spend $6.25B on power plant acquisitions

Dynegy plans to spend more than $6 billion to buy several coal and gas power generation plants from Duke Energy and Energy Capital Partners.

The Houston company says the deal will boost its presence in the Midwest and New England. Dynegy produces power that it sells through wholesale markets.

The company plans to spend $2.8 billion for Duke's assets and $3.45 billion for those of Energy Capital Partners, or ECP. It says the deal will add about 12,500 megawatts of coal and gas generation. Dynegy also expects the acquisitions to complement its existing business and add fuel diversification.

Dynegy Inc. says both deals should close by the end of next year's first quarter.

Shares of Dynegy are climbing in premarket trading.

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