Littwin: Obamacare rollout 2.0

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e 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.

But still.

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.”

[pullquote]Let’s take the insurance cancellations. They’re not actually cancellations of insurance, of course, not like the old kind of cancellations, anyway. You don’t get canceled for pre-existing conditions or because you’re a woman or because you’ve reached a lifetime cap or because you’ve taken a new job.[/pullquote]

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.


  1. My compliments to whoever selected the picture of Evel Knievel to headline this column. It was spot-on. The only picture that would have captured the gist of this column better, and Obamacare in general, would be the Hindenburg docking at Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937.

    Mr. Littwin is far too intelligent to believe the only obstacle standing between Obamacare and success is a functioning website. The problems go far deeper. Obamacare was sold on a lie. A big, fat, juicy, if-you-like-your-health-care-plan-you-can-keep-your-health-care-plan-period lie that President Obama repeated over and over again knowing it wasn’t true. If will take far more than a functioning website to repair that sort of damage.

    President Obama is not the first president to lie to the American people but he promised to be a different type of president. He was Mr. Hope, Mr. Change, Mr. Transparency. Upon his nomination in 2008 he proclaimed that, “this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”. Got ego?

    And then there’s the problem of the cancellation letters which, according to Mr. Littwin, are “not actually cancellations of insurance, of course. The essence of Obamacare is that no one gets canceled.”

    The problem, of course, is that the cancellation letters went out at all (see “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan. Period.”).

    And the essence of Obamacare is better described by Edward Luce in the Financial Times: “Mr Obama has continually promised more from his signature healthcare reform than it can deliver. In addition to telling Americans that they could keep their insurance if they liked it – a pledge that millions now know was untrue – Mr Obama said the law would extend coverage to the one in six uninsured Americans, reduce costs for the other five and improve delivery for all six.”

    And the glaring absence of an opinion poll in this column supporting Mr. Littwin’s suggestion that Obamacare is thisclose to being successful would strongly indicate there is none. But there is a November 8th Gallup Poll which found, “The health exchange websites are not only fraught with the technical problems that have led to so much news coverage in recent weeks, but have also generated relatively little interest or use among uninsured Americans.”

    Only 22 percent of uninsured Americans—the whole reason for Obamacare–have visited the exchanges and there’s a reason for this other then the obvious technical problems. Jeffrey H. Anderson in the Weekly Standard reports, “Take another example: a 31-year-old making $35,000 a year. On average, the cheapest bronze premium for this person would be $2,340—also roughly three times the price of the cheapest plan available pre-Obamacare. The taxpayer-funded subsidy, on average, would be $258. Meanwhile, a 61-year-old making that same $35,000 would, on average, get a subsidy of $3,223—more than 12 times as much.”

    The realization that a majority of Americans dislike Obamacare should not surprise Mr. Littwin because, as he pointed out on October 15th, “And the rest of us have learned that if people in one party do something sufficiently stupid, it is likely, even in this divided country, that most people will call them on it.”

  2. Mr Lopez seems intelligent until he delves into his wing nut rant about the Affordable Care Act being “sold on a lie”. His broad statement that the ACA’s problems go far beyond the web site problems is simply wishful thinking on his part in the hopes, like most wing nut repubs of his ilk, the Act will collapse under it’s own weight. It’s not going to happen and Dandy Don Lopez is scrambling like his fellow GOP clowns who’s desperation grows with each passing day. Lopez can’t come up with anything solid to support his lame conjecture.

    The problems with righty ilk’s like Lopez over anything to do with President Obama is their weak arguments based on innuendo and Limbaugh/Beck tirades where hot air is the name of the game.

    Given time the ACA will become a mainstay in this country changing the way we structure health not just for the whining Lopez’s of the world, but for the truly needy who are as deserving of health care as the wealthy individuals Lopez and his crowd support. Guys like Don Lopez are a dime a dozen with their cheesy attitudes and condescending airs.

    Lopez needs to get a life other than the one he no doubt enjoys being the pawn of conservative hucksters doing the bidding of the Koch’s while licking their boots at every opportunity.

    I’m surprised at how much the righty clowns are scrambling over the ACA. Apparently they haven’t much faith in the ingenuity and genius of the free market to solve the software problems and change the way the private and public sectors cooperate to provide a workable profitable system for all. Is this too much to ask of the Republican party who have no proposals or solutions to the problems of healthcare in this country. Left to the Republicans nothing would be done and the status quo sets in and the wing nut Republicans resume their howling over freeloaders going to the ER for care. What a bunch of sad ignorance they represent in their miserly selfish attitudes. Shame on the lot of them including Don Lopez.

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