For better or worse, Democrats appear to be determined to go down with the Obamacare ship. Earlier this summer the party coalesced around a strategy to stick with the unpopular health care law through thick or thin. But not even the most prescient of strategists could have predicted just how much “thin” there was to come.
From the get-go, the hope among Democrats was that Obamacare would become more popular as Americans became gradually more familiar with the law. Unexpectedly, at least to Democrats, the law grew more unpopular as time went on. Even more startling, the biggest plunge in supports happened to a constituency that is very key to Democrats’ electoral hopes in 2014: namely, Democrats.
A June poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News found that just 46 percent of Democrats supported the federal law making changes to the health care system. That was down from a high of 74 percent immediately after the law was passed.
Unsurprisingly, party leaders were left to rethink their strategy. As Alex Isenstadt reported for Politico in June: “Scarred by years of Republican attacks over Obamacare, with more in store next year, Democrats have settled on an unlikely strategy for the 2014 midterms: Bring it on.” And really, what choice did they have? Democrats fully own the bill so there was no realistic way to distance themselves from it, and pledging repeal or supporting changes would simply highlight the bill’s myriad problems.
The summer has brought more and more bad news for Obamacare’s supporters. Most notably, in response the business community’s warning that provisions of the so-called “employer mandate” would result in slowed hiring and economic damage, the President unilaterally (and potentially illegally) moved to delay the mandate’s enforcement. But the move was apparently not all that well thought out. Because the eligibility for certain subsidies to purchase insurance could only be determined if the mandate was in place, the Administration had to essentially admit that taxpayer dollars would be handed out on the honor system. In other words, get ready for a bonanza of subsidy fraud.
That hasn’t been the end of the problems. Last week the Obama Administration announced that the law’s privacy safeguards are at least two months behind schedule.
According to Michael Astru, who recently stepped down as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration and also previously served as a general counsel to the Department of Health and Human Services, the “reason [for the problem] is plain old incompetence and arrogance.”
Astru writes that CMS “threw together an overly simplistic system without adequate privacy safeguards” that “would leave members of the public open to identify theft, lost periods of insurance coverage, and exposure of address for victims of domestic abuse and others.” This, he warns, could “inflict on the public the most widespread violation of the Privacy Act in our history.”
And just in case you were hoping that the problems stopped there…they don’t. Just yesterday the New York Times reported yet another ad hoc postponement to a provision that would cap out-of-pocket costs on health insurance policies. This was a wrongheaded attempt by the administration to control costs, but in reality mandating lower deductibles and out of pocket costs simply causes insurers to drive up premiums. What Democrats just don’t seem to grasp is that changing the method of payment doesn’t matter unless you’re addressing the underlying cost of care or how it is delivered.
In what shouldn’t come as a surprise, the delay was actually granted by the Obama Administration earlier this year, but was so buried beneath piles of indecipherable rules an regulations that people are just now finding out about it. Did the White House just think that nobody would find it?
“Almost as troubling as the continued failures of the law’s implementation is the lack of transparency,” House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. “Burying this announcement online in a ‘maze of legal and bureaucratic language’ shows little concern for the promises with which this law was sold. What else in the law isn’t working that we don’t know about yet?”
It’s a good question. And if Democrats are really committed to this “bring it on” strategy they had better start providing some answers.