Littwin: Obamacare rollout 2.0
Close your eyes, hold your breath, make a wish
We have finally reached the day of reckoning for Obamacare. Yes, the day comes a little late. In fact, it comes about about a couple million 404 error messages late.
This is the day Barack Obama has been waiting for. If the website is actually working reasonably well – as the administration now contends — that means push has finally met shove, meaning people can find out for themselves whether Obamacare is a monstrosity or, you know, simply a way for people to get decent health insurance who couldn’t get it before.
The desperation in the fight against Obamacare has always been fueled by the thought that Americans will learn to love it, just as they did Social Security and Medicare. Ted Cruz gave the whole game away, back when he was shutting down the government, when he said, “If we’re going to repeal it, we’ve got to do so now or it will remain with us forever.”
The reason, Cruz said, was that people will get so “hooked on Obamacare that it can never be unwound.”
Yep. That was always the worry. People will like it. They’ll join Mitt Romney’s so-called 47 percenters. They’ll see that, whatever its flaws, Obamacare is far better than what came before. If the website is working, it allows Obama to say something like: “When I say there’s good stuff in there, you don’t have to trust me or any other politician. You can look for yourself.”
For the last two months when people tried to look for themselves, what they usually came away with was an Obamacare headache — which apparently isn’t covered by the new law.
And there’s no one to blame for the disastrous rollout other than Obama himself. Maybe he’ll fire Kathleen Sebelius. Maybe he’ll fire his chief of staff or a couple of deputies. But, in the end, it’s his failure. If he did know about the problems, he should have delayed the rollout. If he didn’t know about the problems, then you have to ask why the hell not. He’s the one who couldn’t afford for the rollout to fail. It was his credibility on the line.
Instead of giving the gift of health care reform to the millions of Americans who needed it when the exchanges opened in October, Obama gave an all-purpose gift to Obamacare opponents, who needed it even more. The computer glitches — which turn out to be a hacker’s dream — not only indicated a failure of government, but a failure of, specifically, Obama’s government.
But if the disaster is now over, the moment cuts both ways.
Opponents spent the last two months ripping the very rippable computer failures. But the risk of that strategy was that when the website is finally fixed, some might see the computer fix as pretty much the same thing as an Obamacare fix.
Conservative Red State blogger Erick Erickson sees the danger. He writes that “Conservatives need to keep their focus on the law overall. The website is a reflection of a terrible law. The law is causing millions to lose insurance, millions more to pay more for insurance, and the best the Democrats can do is claim it’d work well if the GOP didn’t think nasty thoughts about it … The website they can fix. We must deny them the opportunity to fix the law itself. Let the American people see big government in all its glory. Then offer a repeal.”
Let’s take the insurance cancellations. (This means you, Cory Gardner.) They’re not actually cancellations of insurance, of course. The essence of Obamacare is that no one gets canceled. You don’t get canceled for pre-existing conditions. You can’t get canceled because you’ve reached a lifetime cap. You don’t get canceled if you take a new job. You can still get insurance.
What the cancellations mean, for the most part, is that the insurance you had was substandard and needs to be replaced with a standard policy. The danger for Obamacare opponents is that once people get on the site, they might find themselves a better deal and, with that deal, they might even qualify for subsidies to help pay for it.
Republicans have fought the plan with every Tea Party breath they take, even turning down free Medicaid expansion simply because Obama offered it. What Republicans haven’t done, of course, is to come up with an alternative plan. To come up with an alternative plan is to say that there’s a role for government in all this. To come up with an alternative plan is to say that there might be a problem that 40 million are uninsured or that health care is so expensive.
Ask Rep. Jack Kingston, who’s running in the Georgia Republican senatorial primary race. He said on radio that “a lot of conservatives say, ‘Nah, let’s just step back and let this thing fall to pieces on its own.’ But I don’t think that’s always the responsible thing to do.”
Then Kingston, who has voted against Obamacare repeatedly, really went out on a limb, saying that there might even be some good things in Obamacare to adopt.
Obama and the Democrats who have defended Obamacare certainly hope so. That’s why they’re doing a roll-out do-over, in which Obama and friends will spend the next three weeks sending out a daily this-is-why-we-need-Obamacare message.
And here’s where the reckoning comes in: It’s even possible that this time, at long last, the Obamacare message goes out without a 404 error warning coming back.
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