The ACA Website: Access, Education, and the Common Good – Patrick Flanagan

Catholic Social Ethics, Current Events

6 thoughts on “The ACA Website: Access, Education, and the Common Good – Patrick Flanagan

  1. I read this but have not closely examined it. I think you make your point well. One thing that left me
    uncomfortable was using the term “digitally handicapped.” While the term makes sense to one who is digitally savvy, its use here doesn’t set right with me.

    I often think of a “handicap” as something beyond one’s control. While that describes some who are “digitally handicapped,” others are digitally illiterate or digitally non-functional by choice. Being labeled “handicapped” might not resonate with them, and leave them feeling further disenfranchised. (Someone who does not want to learn how to drive may not consider him/herself handicapped, even though s/he has refused to learn how to use a tool necessary for most, but not all, in our society.) If I were someone who chose not to be digitally “linked in” I think being called “handicapped” would be off-putting. So while it may be accurate, would the term be further alienating to people already struggling with access? Is there a similar term?

    I know this isn’t important to your argument, but it stood out. In general, I find myself trying to look at the word
    “handicapped” from the standpoint of the person so labeled. It seems the last people you would want to alienate are those without access.

  2. I like the “down in the trenches” approach to applying moral theology in a real world context: technology justice and political life. Pope Francis shows he is unafraid to swim in the waters, not of where healthy meets happy, but in the rough seas of already but not yet. That’s where the people are : finished but mostly unfinished disciples. Those who are still with the church need encouragement mixed with clear guidance. And someone to turn to when the road to glory gets rocky. I’ve run out of metaphors. Technology is here to stay…the Church is at her best when she guides us from where we’re at to where we wanna go.

  3. After reading this blog, 2 things come to mind. The big prep for Y2k being one of them. I was on a team called Y2k disaster recovery for my company. We prepared for a solid year, trying to come up with every scenario possible that could go wrong when the year turned to 2000. I wonder in the governments haste to get this program up and running if they had a team dedicated to a possible “disaster” upon roll out of the ACA website? It makes sense to me that they should have.
    The second issue that I see here is that the ACA is clearly most beneficial to the elderly and the poor. Two segments of our population that either have little means or no desire to access a computer. The elderly either do not trust computers or do not know or want to know how to work them. The poor as stated in your blog do not have access to computers so readily. I guess my question to the government is this, why was there no team to think ahead of the game and see into the future what domino effect this rollout would bring?

  4. While I agree that the ACA website should be held to a very high standard in terms of its functionality, I also feel that to some extent the website’s crashes and glitches were inevitable. For that reason, I cannot express the same level of outrage that other critics of the website are demonstrating. I consider myself somewhat tech savvy and I have closely followed the launch of several large online platforms (from computer games to websites and large businesses). I have yet to see a much-anticipated, internet-driven platform that launches without glitches, slowdowns, and server crashes. While various stress tests are available to calculate how much the system can handle, it appears that the sheer volume of users simply cannot be simulated (at least not to 100% accuracy).

    Does that excuse the government for the ACA website’s failure? Absolutely not. For a nationwide requirement, the government has a duty to provide a functioning website along with an intuitive interface. This is especially true given Professor Flanagan’s concerns relating to the “digitally handicapped.” While there are several reasons for a person to be without a computer with internet access, none of those remove the handicap placed on that person. In today’s world, we are able to access unlimited amounts of quality information from around the globe at the touch of a button. With a few simple keystrokes, we are able to communicate our thoughts (as I am doing now) to anyone who is interested enough to read them. Do we all need a computer? No. But to be without one (intentionally or not) is a handicap.

    So, if there are United States citizens who do not have a reliable internet connection, the government must be available to provide these citizens with the means to access the ACA website. The fact that the website cannot be accessed reliably at this point is a sign of failure. The fact that many people without internet access may not even realize that signing up is a requirement of law is yet another failure. The difference between my view and those of the harshest critics is simple: while the ACA website’s launch was, to some
    extent, a failure, we could have all seen that failure coming. Perhaps we should not be outraged by the
    failure itself, but outraged by the somewhat apathetic response on the part of the government. As Patrick Flanagan states in his post, we need to come together and call for a glitch-free website with an easy-to-use interface. We should also be coming together to call for a more proactive government that makes sure its citizens receive the plan they need. Otherwise, these people will be in the same boat they were in before.

  5. In today’s society, Internet Technology is definitely a “must have” in order for one to be able to function optimally in the world. With reference to ACA website, we find that if the ACA webpage does not function optimally, without glitches, it could leave many people with serious issues. For example “If a citizen is uninsured after March 31, 2014, tax penalties can accrue and would be applied when 2013 income tax returns are filed. A person may qualify for an exemption to the ACA’s mandate to purchase qualifying health insurance, but otherwise a financial penalty may apply.” It is almost required for one to use the internet in order to remain free from penalties. One could argue that access to the internet is a basic human right in present times.

    But what about the people without “access” to technology and “education” as to how to use the technology? they are not equal with others in the general society.
    This leaves many people at a disadvantage. I find that the author raises a good points as to the extent of this problem, and a possible solution. the average person can get involved by raising their voice. The catholic church and CST definitely pinpoints major problems(access and education) and a possible solution with this digital divide. Citizens have a role to play in society in order to contribute to the promotion of the common good. Engaging in politics is one of the highest forms of charity according to the social doctrine of the church, because it serves the common good.

  6. I agree with the other commentators; the website’s crashes and glitches were inevitable. But I am disappointed that these issues have not been resolved after several weeks. While I recognize that the situation is a complex one, I think the author’s solution is valid — we as citizens need to demand an overhauling of the ACA website.

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