Was Obamacare's Failure Predicted?

Apparently, consulting giant McKinsey & Company warned the federal government months ahead of's launch that the Obamacare website was falling behind schedule. McKinsey's report, delivered in March, said that "lack of transparency and alignment on critical issues" threatened the website’s progress. By now, we all know what happened:'s launch was a colossal flop, and has taken about two months to get back to operational levels. Obamacare enrollment numbers are abysmally low, and with each passing day it seems less and less likely that they'll reach target goals. What’s shocking about these new revelations is that the administration didn’t just learn about the website problems during a test drive days before; rather, it knew months ahead of time.

In a fourteen-slide presentation, McKinsey warned that the launch had “significant dependency on external parties/contractors,” “insufficient time and scope of end-to-end testing,” and “parallel stacking of all phases.”

Of course, Republicans were quick to pounce, and with good reason. “Despite assurances from Secretary Sebelius, Marilyn Tavenner, and Gary Cohen that ‘all was well’ and ‘on track’ with the launch of the Affordable Care Act, we now have documents dating back to April that call into question what they told us,” said Congressman Tim Murphy. The report was uncovered as part of a congressional investigation into the launch failure.

Obama administration spokesman Eric Schultz said that the administration had moved to address points raised in the report, but this returns attention to the question of how much president Barack Obama knew, and when he knew it. He had previously stated that he didn't know the website wouldn't be operational in time for the launch, but as we've reported, his nickname should be President Micromanager, and that seems highly unlikely.

It's often hard to see the value of consulting firms, but I'll engage in a little defense of them here: when I was in college, McKinsey, Bain, the Boston Consulting Group, and others hired huge numbers of incredibly talented people I knew. And though it was sometimes sad that those people weren't going to be using their talents for, say, journalism, or nonprofits, or something like that, there's something to be said for having smart, motivated people with good problem-solving skills be a "red team" of sorts for important decisions. Then again, I also always assumed that when a government or corporation spent as much on consulting as they would to hire McKinsey, they'd actually listen to what the consultants said. Not so!

One thing is for certain: if someone at McKinsey had screwed up this much, he or she would be held accountable. And not in the "no-multi-thousand-dollar-Christmas-bonus" kind of way. No; he or she would be fired for damaging the company's brand.

To add to the embarrassment, a new poll conducted by the Washington Post company and ABC news showed that if the presidential election were held today, Obama would lose to Romney amongst registered voters, 45 to 49 percent. (That's shocking, considering that a crack scandal hasn’t harmed Rob Ford’s approval rating.)