Obamacare is so deeply flawed that it cannot be salvaged, the White House is engaging in "smoke and mirrors" and the taxpayers are getting fleeced, according to Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio.
"I think it's got to be scrapped and started over," said Johnson, who is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which heard testimony from Healthcare.gov contractors Thursday. He says a simply analogy explains why fixing the law isn't good enough.
"If you order two eggs over medium and the server brings you two eggs scrambled, you've got two choices: You either eat the scrambled eggs, which means you don't get what you want, or you send 'em back and start over with fresh ingredients. But you can't add enough cooks or money to turn those scrambled eggs into over medium eggs. That's not how it works," he said.
Johnson is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and also ran a successful business before getting elected to Congress in 2010. During both careers, Johnson oversaw major software development projects.
"I did it for 30 years, both within the DoD and in the private sector," he said. "Often times the decisions that I made held the success and failure of multi-billion-dollar companies in the balance. You can't get this far down the road (in a project) and expect to go back and just patch and fix. These are not glitches. They're major failures."
On the technical front alone, Johnson said the roll-out is a complete mess.
"The website doesn't work. Americans are struggling to enroll. The contractors can't tell us when it's going to be fixed or how it's going to be fixed," he said. "And there are major concerns about the security of private health care-related data on the part of the American people."
The federal government announced Friday that Healthcare.gov should be operating flawlessly by late November. Johnson isn't so sure.
"I'm very suspicious of that estimate, and I'm very concerned that what we might get from the administration is more smoke and mirrors. In my experience, you cannot fix these kinds of catastrophic errors," Johnson said.
"Once a software development project has gone this far and is experiencing these kind of errors, you can't add enough programmers or throw enough money at it to fix it. This thing is gonna have to be scrapped. It's gonna have to be started over again, and that's going to come at a phenomenal cost compared to the original development."
If the online problems persist, lawmakers and even the president are likely to seek an extension in the open enrollment period, but the law specifically states that any extension must be approved by Congress. That gives Republicans a considerable amount of leverage.
"We've made it very, very clear to the president that we would like him to delay the individual mandate," he said. "I think giving the American people the same break that he gave to big business is a good thing."
The congressman also said he's looking out for the taxpayer after a massive price tag for the original contracting work on the exchanges and the nation now looks at an expensive and costly repair job.
"He should not be able to spend a penny of taxpayer dollars on fixing, repairing or replacing this website without finding spending cuts to go along with it that would offset them," Johnson said. "This has been money wasted. It's very, very clear to me that not only has (the Center for Medicare Services) not done their job, but they haven't mandated and overseen this project to make sure these contractors are doing their job, either."
The Obama administration and its allies are doing their best to separate the rough start of the exchanges from the content of the new laws, admitting the websites have been deeply flawed but insisting the eventual reality of millions of Americans receiving affordable, quality health care is just around the corner. Johnson strongly disagrees.
"They cannot say that the law is not the problem because the law is what is mandating that Americans get on the website and comply. And they can't comply with the law," Johnson said. "They've got a big problem on their hands right now because this is not fair what is happening to the American people. The president has given a break to big businesses from having to comply with the employer mandate. He's given waivers to his friends. He's got an exemption for himself, for his Cabinet, members of Congress and their staff.
"My goodness, when it the president going to start looking out for the best interests of the American people."
Johnson said the soaring premiums are crippling families in his district as well. He noted that the average family in southeastern Ohio makes about $35,000 per year and simply cannot absorb the hiked premiums that are now a reality as a reality of the law.
"They cannot afford this health care law," he stated.