Obamacare

GAO on IRS Implementation of ObamaCare: "A massive undertaking."

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ObamaCare, to paraphrase Joe Biden, is still a big flippin' deal — especially for the tax authorities at the Internal Revenue Service. A Government Accountability Office report on IRS efforts to manage its $881 million implementation of the law opens by describing ObamaCare as "a massive undertaking that involves 47 statutory provisions and extensive coordination across not only IRS, but multiple agencies and external partners." That sounds exciting! 

Under the law, the IRS is expected to do a lot of the heavy bureaucratic lifting, especially when it comes to the law's health insurance exchanges, where tax credits will be doled out based on income. That's no small task. "To support the exchanges," the GAO report notes, "IRS must modify existing or design new IT systems that are capable of transmitting data to and from HHS, help HHS craft eligibility determinations and related definitions, and engage in new interagency coordination, such as with HHS and the Department of Labor."

It's a Rube Goldberg, in other words, and the IRS is one of the central components. The GAO gives the IRS so-so marks for its work thus far: Some of its risk mitigation goals have been checked off, for example, but GAO also notes that the tax agency has only "minimally met" its goal of producing "credible" cost estimates for implementation work. 

Yet this doesn't tell the whole story. As we already know, the great and powerful government machine imagined by the legislators who authored the bill turns out to be easier to imagine than to build. A recent study warned that under the most likely methods of calculating the law's insurance subsidies, large numbers of people were likely to end up being given the wrong credits. And the network infrastructure necessary to run the exchanges is more of a headache than expected. (Who could have imagined that designing a large-scale IT project intended to instantly assess the personal data of millions of Americans and coordinating it across multiple state and federal government entities would turn out to be a mess?)

ObamaCare represents a sort of all-hands-on-deck moment for America's technocrats and government administrators — a challenge for everyone from the chin-stroking policy wonks to the administration messaging operations to the federal and state worker bees tasked with carrying out the directives and assembling the individual parts. But even forgetting the legal and political barriers to the law, it's not at all clear that they'll be able to pull it off. 

NEXT: Jacob Sullum on Why Conservatives and Progressives Should Unite Against an Overweening National Government

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  1. That photo..

    When did Nick start wearing a suit?

    1. And spectacles.

  2. “IRS must modify existing or design new IT systems that are capable of transmitting data to and from HHS, help HHS craft eligibility determinations and related definitions, and engage in new interagency coordination, such as with HHS and the Department of Labor.”

    I foresee the purchase of a large number of 56k US Robotics modems.

    1. And for $17,000 per unit.

      1. Multiplier effect!

      2. Oh man! Am I too late to put mine up on eBay?

    2. 56k is a wasteful indulgence. I have a set of 900 baud modems that can be connected to any existing phone line by simply placing a handset in the cradle here. And look at how much more robust they are compared to those flimsy 56k modems. $20k a piece.

      1. I’d be happy to provide the software. I can’t actually write software – or even know anything about it. But I know a guy in the IRS procurment office, will form a company with a female, veteran minority and I’m willing to fill out a lot of forms. Then I hire some scriptkitties
        http://akulla3d.deviantart.com…..-115370576
        and in 16-24 months I’ll provide some very inadequate and/or non-functional software.
        Email me for details.
        God Bless America.

        1. I think I interviewed with you guys once.

          1. Stuff like this isn’t limited to the gub’ment. I bid on a job to create a new smartphone not that long ago. The company consisted only of management and everything from hardware to software to design to support was contracted out. We deliberately high-balled our bid because we saw fail written all over the project.

    3. I’m thinking this should run on an Access 97 database.

  3. Yet this doesn’t tell the whole story. As we already know, the great and powerful government machine imagined by the legislators who authored the bill turns out to be easier to imagine than to build.

    Cue photo of Rachel Maddow in hard hat standing before the Barack Obama Dam (formerly the Hoover Dam). Where’s your can-do spirit, America’s bureaucrats?

    Anyway, when PPACA is struck down en masse, we can look forward to all of that new IRS infrastructure being retasked to bring down its vengeance directly on you, the profit earner.

  4. Who could have imagined that designing a large-scale IT project intended to instantly assess the personal data of millions of Americans and coordinating it across multiple state and federal government entities would turn out to be a mess?

    These are people who played sports and went to prom and so forth, not nerds living in their parent’s basement who know how to use technology. What do you expect from them? Just get it done, nerds.

    1. Actually, when I read this again, this doesn’t compute. Homeland security does this daily.

      1. Right, but the bureaucracies hire people to do things, at least when it comes to LE and national defense. I took this as referring to Congress people, professional idiots out of touch with reality, and tailored my comment to represent them.

        1. As a software developer who deals with government bureaucrats on a daily basis, your comment is spot on.

      2. Not successfully.

        1. If you put 360,000,000 people into your database, there are going to be some terrorists and criminals in there, I guarantee it.

  5. “What do you expect from them?”
    To think their grandparents planned the invasion of Nazi Europe from scratch in only two years and without computers.

    1. That’s not true at all. We had, like two, computers by then. More if you count the glorified adding machines that did ballistics.

  6. “Let a thousand million bureaucrats bloom.”

  7. describing ObamaCare as “a massive undertaking that involves 47 statutory provisions and extensive coordination across not only IRS, but multiple agencies and external partners.” That sounds exciting!

    Again, I encourage anyone who has not (attempted to) read the actual PPACA legislation to do so. I *guarantee* you will find it exciting!

  8. It would be simpler to just force everyone out of their homes at gunpoint, round them up into pens, and then process them one by one, with tattoos or RFIDs for everyone who’s insurance status has been conclusively established. Anyone who’s status cannot be conclusively established shall remain in the pens until such time as they can procure proof of proper coverage.

    Unless they resist, then they can just be shot to death. Please, please, make my day and resist, you worthless peon shits.

    Hugs’n’Kisses,
    Statist Bootlicker

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