Obamacare, Republicans — October 23, 2013 at 9:49 am

Republican-led House Committee taps ex-fugitive John McAfee as an expert on Obamacare website


The GOP’s ongoing efforts to cripple Obamacare get more bizarre every day. And they’re not working.

First, there was the refusal by most Republican-led states to create their own health insurance marketplaces, deciding instead to leave it to the federal government. It was a hypocritical stance given Republicans’ penchant for giving states more control but, hey, anything to get in the way of Obamacare.

Then, there was the government shutdown, in which the first hostage was Obamacare. I imagine “Defund, Delay, Dismantle!” as the GOP battle cry.

When the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov, opened for business October 1, it was plagued with technical issues that are still being worked out. The Republicans, of course, pounced on that. As if their own tech programs have never had glitches. (Amercia, anyone?)

They’re not letting it go, either, calling for the resignation of U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and demanding a hearing. The Republicans sure do like their hearings, much more than they like talking about, say, creating jobs, apparently.

But the latest in this saga takes the cake. When they wanted expert advice on the issues with HealthCare.gov, who did House Republicans turn to? John McAfee, the guy who created the anti-virus software and former fugitive once suspected in the murder of his neighbor in Central America.

According to NBC News, CNBC uncovered the story.

Last week, [McAfee] was approached by a key congressional staffer, Sean Hayes, counsel with the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, about sharing his expertise in an inquiry into what has gone wrong with HealthCare.gov.

“This is the Committee of jurisdiction for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare),” Hayes wrote in an Oct. 14 email to McAfee’s lawyer, Francois Garcia. “For three years we have been monitoring the implementation of the law and have been trying to dig into what has happened with the Exchange rollout.”

“Given the failures of Healthcare.gov, and Mr. McAfee’s expertise, I was hoping he might be able to discuss his views with staff on the hill,” Hayes wrote. “It would be an informal discussion: we would take notes but these would not be for attribution, it would mainly guide our oversight and review of the program.”

“This would hopefully not be a heavy lift for him: what problems could lead to the compromise of personal identifying information? What could we be doing to prevent data or identify theft? What advice generally does he have?” Hayes wrote.

McAfee told CNBC that he was interested in speaking to the committee, whose majority membership is hostile to President Barack Obama’s signature health-care reform law.

Hayes declined to comment when questioned by CNBC. But a source on the committee said, “In an effort to better understand the technology concerns, we reached out to a few of the experts who have been featured in media reports on the health care exchange ‘glitches.’ … However, no interview was ever scheduled with McAfee.”

McAfee is known to covet the spotlight, and his media appearances have included Fox News, as reported Tuesday by “The Rachel Maddow Show.” The fact that the software he developed doesn’t exactly have a track record of excellence — and that he’s widely considered to be on the crazy side — doesn’t exactly make McAfee a respectable expert. Within minutes of Maddow’s report, Twitter lit up with jokes using the #OtherGOPConsultants hashtag.

Not exactly a shining moment for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, including Chairman Rep. Fred Upton, a Republican representing Michigan’s 6th district.

Meanwhile, the GOP’s efforts to undermine Obamacare aren’t exactly successful. Although the federal website still has issues to resolve, the popularity of Obamacare is evident in the state-run marketplaces, which are going like gangbusters. Just ask Democratic Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky.

You can watch Gov. Beshear’s interview with Chris Cuomo here.

And if you want to see Rachel Maddow gleefully mock the GOP’s approach to choosing “experts,” here you go. Enjoy!

[CC image credit: DonkeyHotey | Flickr]