Sunday, 16 November 2014

NSA v/s the ACA--who got the computer mojo?

It’s a little eerie to watch Citizen Four, the documentary about the handling of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the vast Peeping Tom network at the heart of our government, just as the Obamacare Web site is open for Year 2 of its sorry business.

On the one hand, Snowden’s revelations that we’ve now been reading about for a full year, demonstrate the enormous sophistication and reach of the electronic apparatus now in the hands of the shadow state, its creepy capacity to track our movements through metadata, know our buying habits, map out our social networks, pry into our financial affairs, and of course—as soon as they want to explore further—read our mail. The amorphous, ever-expanding, interlinked blob of “security” enterprises has turned information systems into a finely-honed tool to ‘collect it all’ in their own words, to amass every detail about us, to be called up and analyzed at the right moment—as determined by them.

Ostensibly, it is all to prevent terrorism. Practically and independently of the good intentions of this or that cog in the bureaucratic wheel, it can and will be used to crush dissent.

Meanwhile, the informatics in use for the Affordable Care Act, intended to provide certain millions of previously uninsured Americans with health coverage so that might have the minimum access to a doctor, is a pile of junk. Despite the embarrassing 2013 debacle and a full year of re-preparation (added to the four years since passage of the Act itself), the problems with the clunky and user-unfriendly system still are not fixed.

As Lambert Strether writes in Naked Capitalism under ‘The Crapified Magic of the ObamaCare Marketplace’ the awfulness of the front-end (interface, readily obvious) software is matched only by the awfulness of the back-end (resolution, not apparent until it goes wrong) software. Therefore, not only is navigation almost impossible for tech-savvy, knowledgeable and alert ‘consumers’ (an offensive term in itself as no one should have to ‘consume’ their way to the right to health), but also the likelihood is enormous that users eventually will experience a screw-up in coverage due to the federal health insurance exchange itself (i.e., not the insurance company policies’ predictably vast shortcomings), through miscommunication, wrongfully applied payments, coverage dating errors or any of the million details involved in the infernally complex Kafka-world of health insurance.

Anecdotally, of course, some people are having good experiences with their ACA policies, and good for them. In a program of this size, that’s inevitable. But because of the founding, neoliberal principles of Obama/ RomneyCare’s origins, designed to strengthen the role of financier intermediaries in health provision to help them extract more rent, such happy outcomes will be the exception rather than the rule.

When the state wants to snoop on us, it knows exactly how to do it. But when it is supposedly trying to provide its neediest citizens with a very modest boost in their wellbeing via the signature program of the Obama Administration, it hasn’t got an effing clue.

Bug or feature?

1 comment:

Dough said...

Good (and disturbing) point.