There’s no shame in making a mistake. Henry Ford had the Edsel. Coca Cola had New Coke. George Lucas had Jar Jar. But when you make a mistake, it’s important to not only recognize and acknowledge it, but also fix it. Sometimes that can be a painful process, but we count on leaders to do it.
When Presidents make mistakes – and everyone makes them - how they react can determine how history judges them. Bill Clinton’s attempt to reform health care was a disaster, but he eventually signed welfare reform and admitted “the era of big government is over.” George W. Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court – but when her nomination failed badly, he rebounded by naming Samuel Alito – who was confirmed and who has served ably. Nixon covered up a “third rate burglary” at the Watergate, and his failure to admit what he knew eventually destroyed his presidency and his legacy.
The bigger the mistake, the more important it is to acknowledge it and correct it quickly. It’s clear now that Obamacare was a serious mistake, so how long will it take to find a permanent fix to this?
The problems are well-known. The law is hurting the economy, as businesses absorb higher health care costs, and limit their workers’ hours. Medical care is suffering as doctors are dropped from new insurance policies, and others refuse to accept them. Millions are losing health insurance that they like and depend on. Medicare cuts are forcing insurers to drop doctors from their networks and limit patient choice. And in addition to all this, the new and inflated Obamacare premiums are causing many to avoid the new exchanges – which may trigger a “death spiral” in the insurance industry.
It turns out that in many important respects, the critics were right. People are not getting what they were promised. At best, Obamacare needs major surgery. If Washington delays, irreparable damage will be done. People will lose care because they cannot afford insurance – or because the website does not work. Small businesses will be forced to close because the high cost of insurance leaves them unable to compete. People will lose access to the doctors and hospitals they count on. Taxpayers may be forced to pay for the new insurance bailout included in Obamacare.
The time to act is now – before these and other negative effects become impossible to avoid. Unfortunately, the President seems focused on going down in history as the man who transformed American health care, without focusing on the fact that it’s being transformed for the worse. If he will not act, it is time for his allies in Congress to step up.