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There's a Cure for That

I'm still trying to figure it out. What for-profit business would roll-out a brand new product or service the way the Federal government just did with the online introduction of Obamacare? Would Apple roll out their new iPhones and iPads without years of beta testing the technology first? Doesn't Google employ thousands of people to develop, update and test its apps on a minute-by-minute basis?

In yesterday's New York Times, the contractor who built the Obamacare website described it as "a complex transaction processor" that must "communicate instantaneously with computer systems developed by other contractors and with databases of numerous federal agencies and more than 170 insurance carriers qualified to do business in the 36 states where the federal marketplace operates."

Does that sound like something that would launch without a hitch to you? Or something that should go live without months and months of beta testing, not a mere few weeks as has been widely reported?

What the Democrats and Republicans have been fighting to the death over would have taken its own natural course of delay if someone in charge (is there someone?) had just told our President that we weren't ready for the roll-out and that Obamacare implementation would need more time and should be delayed. It happens all the time in corporate and entrepreneurial America when a new product or service is just not ready. Hey, the IRS just announced that the start of next year's tax season will be delayed at least two weeks due to the recent government shut down. While I'm not happy about that bit of news, at least they got out in front of the issue and set expectations for us.

But that's the charm of our government. Mandate something that people must comply with that just doesn't work. The only way to sign up for health insurance under Obamacare is through the website or by using the website to look up a toll-free telephone enrollment number. And this assumes that all the people who need this federal program have access to the technology (computers plus Internet service) and the ability to understand and navigate a system that flummoxed professionals with advanced degrees.

I deal with very intelligent people every day who, when faced with a government form they've never seen before, just freeze. They simply can't figure it out. And let's face it: how many of us have filled out our own insurance applications? Or do we rely on an insurance salesperson or broker to help us through the process?

Leave it to good old Uncle Sam to ask the people most in need of affordable healthcare to use a system they may not be able to access, they don't understand and that doesn't work. That's some formula for the health and well-being of the nation.

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The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Jeffrey M. Weiner and do not represent those of Marcum LLP, its partners or its employees.

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