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On the Third Hand: Communications

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In the United States, the party that’s been on top often loses steam in the midterm elections.

The economy is sluggish, and people are in a sour mood. But at least we’re not in the same horrible boat that Europe’s in.

Public health authorities seem to have gotten us through the Ebola scare. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) might be doing hospitals and some poor people and moderately low-income people some good, in spite of the irritation it causes the rest of us. 

So, on the one hand, I could see why members of the Obama administration might look at the results of Tuesday’s selections, sigh, and just go on with muddling through.

But, on the other hand, I hope members of the administration will look harder at the results, and at some of the Democratic strongholds (Maryland, Massachusetts) where voters elected Republican governors, and realize that even many of  their own loyal partisans are trying to send them a message: Many people — even some independents and Eisenhower Republicans — trust the Democrats to have good hearts and sensible views on the issues of the day — but they don’t trust the Democrats to put together an information technology system that works properly.

Perhaps more important, they don’t trust the Democrats to fess up and speak in plain English when they mess up, especially in any area that has anything to do with PPACA.

PPACA officials in some states, such as Nevada and California, have done a great job of being honest and open about their failures as well as their achievements. They stream live video of board meetings on the Web. They put comment letters from angry members of the public in their board meeting packets.

On the third hand, the managers of the public exchange operations at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) seem as if they’re more likely to post photos of North Korean military parades on their websites than to give the public complete, hype-free information about any topic relating to PPACA implementation.

There was some hope that Kevin Counihan, the new chief executive officer of the exchange system, might help loosen up the joint. But, so far, there’s not much evidence that his bosses let him speak freely.

Maybe he’s just too busy getting ready for the second exchange open enrollment period, which is set to start Nov. 15.

Maybe he had to move to Washington to take his new post and is still caught up with trying to get the cable company to hook up his cable service.

But, once the enrollment system starts, here’s an idea about a way for the Obama administration to show that it understands what the voters were saying: Start just posting daily applicant identity verification totals as they come in, whether they’re good, bad or indifferent.

Also post whatever enrollment data is available, whether it’s incomplete, faulty, skewed by evil underpants goblins, or otherwise distasteful.

If administration officials could at least show that they have the capacity to look as if they’re sincerely trying to pretend to be candid, that would be better than the current state of affairs.


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