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ObamaCare Clusterfuck: Train Wreck on the Twitter -- Administration PR Team Launches Google Hangout to Online Derision, Part I

On Tuesday, Pravda informed us that the White House was "ramping up" its efforts to market ObamaCare, and that among those efforts would be "a Google hangout Wednesday to promote its enrollment Web site," [sic*]. Some of us also received a mail blast giving the event details, and inviting us to submit questions via twitter to #HCgovHangout. Needless to say, many of us noted the date and prepared questions, and when the time came, we were not disappointed.... I grabbed the live stream off Google['s proprietary site]; here it is:

The two talking heads in the video are Julie Bataille (left), Director of CMS' Office of Communications, and Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner (right), Executive Director/CEO and Co-Founder of MomsRising.** (The other co-founder is Joan Blades, also a co-founder of Rowe-Finkbeiner's presence explains something Donna Brazile said on ABC's This Week, working her kayfabe routines with George Will and some other Sabbath Day gasbags (clip):

GEORGE WILL: Young people, young people are not going to sign up if they can do elementary arithmetic, which they can. Second, why not just --
DONNA BRAZILE: If their mama tells them to sign up they're going to sign up.

How are they going to organize that? I asked myself. Now I know. Mom's Rising is the answer! (That said, though I hold no brief for Will's viciousness, if I were young, healthy, in debt from college, and facing Obama's brutal job market, I'd think twice about spending a dime on a defective product like health insurance.)

* * *

We'll have a transcript of the hangout tomorrow -- our transcriber took about ten minutes to do it, which gives you an idea of the depth that Bataille and Rowe-Finkbeiner brought to their "conversation" with us -- which I will color code. For today, however, I color-coded the tweets themselves; the exercise yielded some interesting results. Here are the results in tabular form:


(Appendix I shows the coding for the entire stream; the colors to the left of the tweets correspond to the colors in this table.)

From a public relations standpoint, the two most important categories are Publicity (72 tweets;   ) and User confusion (30;   ) combined with User critique (30;   ). Why?

Well, there were a ton of Publicity tweets, but they all looked like this, with varying degrees of chirpiness:

Unfortunately, most if not all the Publicity tweets got the URL wrong, resulting in User Confusion tweets like this:

And User critique tweets like this:

(Disclosure: Katiebird worked with me and others to develop questions for #HCgovHangout.)

The next most important set of tweets ("Question: Coverage") was on what ObamaCare's health insurance plans will cover (37 tweets;   ). Here's an example:

As we shall see with the transcript in Part II, a few of the more general coverage questions were answered, but specific questions demanding precision were not. (This is important, because ObamaCare's mind-boggling complexity makes for a staggering number of very specific questions.)

The final important set of tweets ("Question: Exchange") focused on how the exchanges were supposed to work, and whether they would be ready by the October 1 deadline (30 tweets;   ). Here are some examples:

None of these questions were answered, including other questions on the 10/1 drop-dead date.

Amazingly, a question I posted was answered; I'll talk about that in Part II as well.

* * *

Summing up: The #HCgovHangout was a public relations debacle.

1. If the publicity campaign had really been a success, Publicity wouldn't have been the category with the largest tweet count; real tweets with real questions would have outnumbered the professional PR tweets by at least an order of magnitude. Of course, the announcement appeared at the last minute, only a day in advance of the Hangout. Was this session a dry run? Lack of planning? What?

2. Embarassing technical and user experience failures -- wrong URL; no help; no official corrections on the stream; nothing on the principals' twitter profiles -- cannot but give the impression of a program that's out of control. Given that so many of the aspects of ObamaCare that raise concerns are technical -- even after Obama gutted the Exchanges by descoping the employer reporting requirement and income validation -- that's an especially unfortunate impression to convey.

3. Stale videos and a Beltway-style orgy of mutual self-regard by insiders consumed most of the allotted time, giving real tweets with real questions short shrift. This cannot but convey the impression of an administration that's out of touch.

4. Bataille and Rowe-Finkbeiner won't touch the "Will you be ready by 10/1?" questions. Curious! Or not, eh?

So: Last minute planning, out of control, and out of touch. And maybe out of time. Quite a message. I wonder what the White House will think?

NOTE * Of course, ObamaCare apologists consistently confuse health care with health insurance; the two are not the same, shown most vividly in the fact that health insurance companies profit by denying health care, not giving it. It verges on disinformation to confuse the two.

NOTE Again, back in the days of steam-powered mainframes powered by punch cards, LBJ rolled out Medicare to the entire over-65 population in a year. That shows the difference between single payer's simple and rugged system architecture, and ObamaCare's underwhelming complexity.

Appemdix I: Coded Tweets

So you can see the coding, here are thumbnails of the #HCgovHangout twitter stream from the first tweet 'til I turned off the recorder at 3:00PM (there are doubtless more tweets following the hangout). You can click each thumb to get a barely readable larger version; technical limitations (a tiny laptop screen) dictate the small size. These thumbnails are screen dumps from the twitter feed, cropped, pasted together, and then color-coded in InDesign; this clumsy manual process has certainly led to occasional errors, which will not substantively affect the chart. As in Twitter, the posts read from the present to the past,

15_coded 14_coded 13_coded 12_coded
11_coded 10_coded 9_coded 8_coded
7_coded 6_coded 5_coded 4_coded
3_coded 2_coded 1_coded

Also, pie:


Average: 5 (1 vote)


jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on


This cannot but convey the impression of an administration that's out of touch.

They're in touch alright but only with the criminals of the health care world and we already know the wh could give a flying F$$$ about Main Street.

Thanks to everyone working on this and I can't wait to read the transcript and part 2.

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Here's a cut/paste of a question and answer. The answer is about as useful as the one Katiebird got just sending her to the incomprehensible pre-packaged "explainer" about MAGI, etc.

Anyhoo, here goes. Short answer: No Prices For Anyone until October! That is one well-timed jack-in-the-box (if you are EnrollAmerica).

Alison Jones ‏@AlisonJ45961221 19h

And if you go to the link, it's a pre-packaged non-informational FAQ about "How Much Will These THings Cost"? [my paraphrase]. The short answer is: who knows, because prices being set by Private Magic Insurance Co. Market though if you go to the exchanges (and only if you do that) you *might*, just *might* qualify for some "financial assistance" from Obama.
@HealthCareGov I need the exact dollar figure for how much an exchange policy will cost -- not just premuims. Where do I find?
Hide conversation Reply Delete Favorite More
10:29 PM - 10 Jul 13 · Details
Tweet text
Reply to @HealthCareGov
Image will appear as a link ‏@HealthCareGov 2h
@AlisonJ45961221 Prices will be available Oct 1. Read for more info: #HCgovHangout

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Cool, I'm learning a new thing ... Twitter :)

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Here it is cut and pasted. It is an answer to a question posed by a Lambert Strether.

lambert strether ‏@lambertstrether 10 Jul
If I get a health policy on the exchange does that mean I can't go bankrupt anymore because of medical bills? #HCgovHangout
Expand ‏@HealthCareGov 4h
@lambertstrether There are added protections by ending lifetime limits for essential benefits: #HCgovHangout
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This answer will be interesting to parse. What does "ending lifetime limits for essential benefits" have to do with preventing bankruptcy if your policy premiums skyrocket, or your policy doesn't cover more than Loser-Level Bronze percentages, etc. etc. In the view of this ignorant layperson: Absolutely Nothing.

I'd love to be wrong, so if any readers understand the logic in this answer, please enlighten me. I am *not* being sarcastic!

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Lauren Williams ‏@mtnlauley 10 Jul
Will any plans cover asthma prevention? Items such as pillows, mattresses, and carpet cleaning? #HCgovHangout
Expand ‏@HealthCareGov 4h
@mtnlauley Marketplace plans must cover essential health benefits: #HCgovHangout
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1:47 PM - 11 Jul 13 · Details
Tweet text
Reply to @HealthCareGov @mtnlauley

Uh, the lady wanted to know about *specific* costs that someone with asthma has to incur. "Marketplace plans must cover essential health benefits" is not responsive though it is straight from the PR, damage control, playbook.

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Potential ObamaCare consumer wants to know where s/he can see a copy of the darn application. Seems reasonable, right?

Here's what HealthGov's Agents respond: we have checklists! here's a whole bunch of them where you can chose the right one for you (Because choice!).

[The answer could have been: we haven't finished the application yet, sorry. ]

Noting, though: I thought the 3-Page Streamlined wonder was a wrap, seen as it was the subject of a loud Obama public announcement, some time back. No? So what is up with checklists?! It's like everything Enroll America is giving out as "preparation" or "information" is just fake secondary power-pointy stuff that avoids any necessary detail or legal accuracy.]

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Kirk Broome ‏@kirkbroome 10 Jul
How are the elderly or disabled, largest uninsured population, going to shop online for insurance? Doubt they have computers #HCgovHangout
Expand ‏@HealthCareGov 5h
Reply to @kirkbroome Several options to apply for Marketplace coverage offline: #HCgovHangout

I clicked on the link. From what I saw it is a FAQ on all the aspects of online help with enrolling and applying. Does somebody else see anything in the linked pre-packaged FAQ that addresses the gentleman's question about how people who *do not have internet* (among the most vulnerable and of course those who need health care the most) can enroll or get help with entering the Marketplace?

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

the ObamaCare Train Wreck on Twitter series. Just going through the Qs and As ... writes itself. *Sadly* and *tragically* I might add.

There could be Lambert-style color-coded categories for the answers. For example: (1) Nonresponsive Talking Point; (2) Misleading/Inaccurate; (3) Avoidance of info on realistic detail, etc...

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Below (hopefully) are the original Tweets that I mentioned in my previous posts in this thread.