Two days after his administration launched a new web-based health insurance marketplace, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Thursday that problems plaguing Vermont Health Connect were a little more "something-burger" than "nothing-burger."
At the same time, Shumlin said his administration was "making great progress" in resolving glitches and accelerating connectivity to the online exchange, through which 100,000 Vermonters are expected to buy health insurance.
"This is a good news story," the governor said Thursday afternoon at a Statehouse press conference. "This is the biggest technology transformation in health care in the history of America. We are delivering on the promise that was made to help low-income people get access to insurance."
In discussing the system's roll-out, Shumlin found himself revisiting a prime metaphor he cooked up at another press conference two weeks before. At the time, the governor was asked about his administration's recent admission that Vermont Health Connect's online payment processing system would not debut until November 1 — a month later than promised.
"I was amazed that we could make a headline out of that fact, to be honest with you," Shumlin said at the time. "The fact of the matter is, that's a nothing-burger."
On Thursday, he was asked whether he would characterize the system's more recent problems as nothing-burgers, too.
"Let me be clear," Shumlin began his grade-A answer. "Let me be clear, because listen: I love you all in the press. I love you."
[Fact check: Now that's a whopper!]
"But sometimes you take a statement and I read it back and I go, 'Were they at the press conference?'" the governor continued. "I was asked by a reporter whether the delay — very specifically — whether the delay on the electronic payment system in October was a big deal. What did it mean to Vermont? I said, listen, I said that particular detail is a nothing-burger."
And then he really got cookin'.
"So let's talk about nothing-burgers and something-burgers. The website is a something-burger," Shumlin clarified. "The challenges that we're having with the website obviously are something-burgers. The nothing-burger was what I responded to at the last press conference I had before I went to China, which was the delay of payments on October 1st when no one is going to be paying on October 1st, because no one's getting an invoice yet. Now, I've never heard of a business who pays a bill when they don't have an invoice."
Relishing the opportunity to bite on the metaphor, Associated Press reporter Dave Gram grilled Shumlin further.
"Governor, what kind of condiments go on a something-burger?" he asked, steak-ing out new journalistic terrain.
"Lots of investment in technology from all over the country coming together to try to coordinate different websites would be the condiments in this something-burger," Shumlin said, playing ketchup to Gram's well-done line of inquiry.
"Because I gather no condiments go on a nothing-burger," Gram said.