Healthcare.gov is a very complicated system. You are verifying the citizenship and income of every American citizen, then using that data to communicate with numerous insurance companies to provide a list of healthcare plans for the people to choose from. To add to this complication, the system also has to base its logic upon the 36 states in the system and their insurance rules. All of that makes it not only complex, but also revolutionary.
You know what isn’t revolutionary for computers? Accounting. In fact account is one of the oldest uses of computer systems, dating back to a time of punch cards. How tied are computers and accounting? Well their etymology are actually intertwined. The word “accountant” has it’s origins from the Latin word computare, the same as….wait for it…..COMPUTER!
So now that we know the history of computer and it’s close ties to accounting, you think that accounting with a computer should be something very common, and you would be right. Well then, why can’t the Department of Defense get it right?
Because of its persistent inability to tally its accounts, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China’s economic output last year.
So we have a serious accounting problem, which totals half of our national debt, that is dating back to 1996. Why isn’t the right throwing a fit about this? It seems like we have a much more serious problem here than we do with the ACA.
Think about it. The Obama administration had 3 years to develop something rather revolutionary on technologies that date back no more than 22 years, while the Department of Defense has had 17 years to straighten out their accounting, a practice dating back to biblical times and using technologies that have dated back to the 50’s and been constantly updated since. Why aren’t we having a serious talk about this, especially since we are talking about enough money to give everyone grade A healthcare free?
If that doesn’t anger you enough, or get you questioning the motivations of the “repeal Obamacare” crowd, then just wait. In the report I linked above we get a further look into how badly this DOD accounting implementation has been in this simple chart:
So we see all these systems the DoD is supposed to enact, per Congress, and that they are taking years and decades to complete, if they get completed.
Another thing stands out in this chart. Republicans love firing off the “$600 million to build a website” meme. Think about that, then look at the “projects killed” in the above chart. They total over $2.7 billion. That amount of money just flushed down the toilet could build healthcare.gov 4.5 times over, and our government just wasted it.
Still not upset? Well how about this:
At the end of fiscal 2011, the agency’s backlog totaled 24,722 contracts worth $573.3 billion, according to DCAA figures. Some of them date as far back as 1996.
These are private contracts that the government has not been able to audit. Now that’s not to say that all that money was wasted, and I’m sure it wasn’t, but how do we know that? We don’t because the Department of Defense can not accomplish a simple goal of accounting.
All of this is really interesting to think about. Healthcare.gov is small potatoes compared to things like the Department of Defense. The waste of one simple process, using a practice dating back to ancient times, and given close to two decades to enact has wasted almost 5 times more money than the creation of a system in three years that is highly buggy, but does work and is being improved upon everyday. And the outrage from the GOP on the failures of Pentagon accounting are as non-existent as billions of Pentagon dollars. Perhaps this is because the GOP feels that our military should be able to defend a nation of unhealthy people, devoting almost 1/5 of its GDP to healthcare (prior to the ACA). Or maybe it’s because the GOP doesn’t want these accounting problems fixed, since it would expose a serious redistribution of wealth, where money is going from the bottom to the top. Either way, we do know one thing – the GOP does not give a damn about you or me, or even accountability. Instead they are only concerned with making campaign talking points and triggering faux outrage. That in no way serves the country, but only the party, and is a practice totally devoid of any sort of partirotism they may think they exhibit. It’s outrageous and the GOP needs to be held accountable to standards higher than the DOD for this.