‘How can we tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn’t work?’

‘How can we tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn’t work?’

Health care 404Right now the title question, posed by Speaker of the House John Boehner, remains purely philosophical. The so-called Obamacare website is not working, but it may be fully functional by the end of the open enrollment period six months from now.

Then again, it may not be, according to software experts, who told Fox News that the $93 million website through which consumers are supposed to use to sign for the health care exchanges may be plagued by major technical glitches for months.

George Edwards, a computer scientist and professor at the University of Southern California, is one of the skeptics, telling reporters, “I wouldn’t rule out that possibility.” Attempting to iron out the problems while the site is running and open to millions of customers, he added, is “like trying to repair a car while someone is driving it.”

James Turner, a member of the technical staff at software company Beeonics, reports to the HealthCare.gov website as a consumer and observing the Javascript errors. “I’ve been a software developer for 33 years now,” he said. “After a while when something is not working right, you just kind of know the reasons why things are failing. It looks like the user interface was something that was tested least or not done right, or both…. What we have here is the perfect storm in software development.”

As for that philosophical question that opened this post, James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal takes the speculation a step further. Quoting an article at Bloomberg, which notes that because of the glitches some Americans may not “be covered even after they sign up for an insurance plan,” Taranto writes:

After the court’s ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius, the mandate … is not an actual legal command, but, as Chief Justice John Roberts put it, merely the establishment of ‘a condition — not owning health insurance — that triggers a tax — the required payment to the IRS.’

Suppose Congress had enacted the individual mandate, as construed by the chief justice, as stand-alone legislation. That is, suppose we had a law imposing a punitive tax on uninsured individuals without any provision to help people get insurance. It seems patently unfair and constitutionally at least dubious to tax people for a ‘condition’ — being uninsured — that is in many cases beyond their control.

Yet in practical terms that is exactly what ObamaCare will turn out to be if the exchanges aren’t made to work within a matter of weeks. That suggests grounds for a new legal challenge to the individual mandate one that — OK, call us a cockeyed optimist — could give the chief justice an — opportunity to undo his mistake.


LU Staff

LU Staff

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