President Obama had three goals coming into today's press conference: First, to shift responsibility for the Obamacare fiasco onto insurers by saddling them with mid-implementation changes. Second,to quell Democratic panic on Capitol Hill. And third, to nudge the media toward turning the page on his healthcare debacle. He accomplished none of these things. Indeed, he made things worse -- sinking his presidency to a new nadir. A few jaw-dropping quotes:
(1) "What we're also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy." Really, Mr. President? You're "discovering" this minor detail three years after you forced through a massive, unpopular overhaul of the entire system? This statement is a breathtaking admission of abject dereliction and incompetence. ABC News' Rick Klein also notes that the administration's long-time talking points assured skeptical consumers that Obamacare would be easy to buy. That's what all of the "just like Expedia!" comparisons were about. Now, with millions getting booted from their plans, with a horribly broken website exacerbating the pain, Obama suddenly sees the light. A disgrace.
(2) "What we're essentially saying is the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the factor in what happens with folks in the individual market." Points for candor, I guess. Here the president explicitly spells out the motivation behind his so-called "fix" -- which even liberal wonks and industry experts are admitting are unworkable and will make the law's problems worse. The goal is not to repair the damage; the goal is to scapegoat someone else for the Obamacare wreckage that awaits. Insurance companies are the new villains. Insurers, who've been in bed with Obama on this law from the beginning, aren't going to take the demonization lying down. Obama is decreeing a 13th-hour disruption that they cannot comply with at this stage, and that will throw their finances into chaos. They will, in turn, hike premiums even more next year. This is the death spiral, ladies and gentlemen. And Obama will try to stand to the side and point at his former Obamacare partners as the culprits. It's shameful. And I suspect it won't work. His credibility is in the tank.
(3) "On the website, I was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to." In which President Obama once again claims that he was unaware of the long parade of internal and external warnings that Healthcare.gov was a historic trainwreck in the making. What is Obama aware of, pray tell? What does he believe he job entails? If overseeing and managing his own signature legislative 'accomplishment' isn't within his self-imagined job description, what is? Aloof ignorance as a recurring excuse is truly pathetic, especially on a screw-up this epic. This "defense" severely undermines the efficacy of big government:
Our go-to defense is utter ignorance, but trust us to do Big Things.— Mary Katharine Ham (@mkhammer) November 14, 2013
(4) "The marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost." Key word: "Might." Another major departure from the president's Obamacare sell job. As Phil Klein pointed out yesterday, based on HHS' own numbers, only a fraction of those who've applied for Obamacare coverage so far have been deemed eligible for subsidies. And presumably, only some of those eligible applicants would receive enough taxpayer money to lower their overall costs. Obamacare's average premium hike nationwide is a 41 percent jump -- which does not include soaring out-of-pocket expenses caused by rising deductibles and copays.
(5) "It is not possible for me to guarantee that a hundred percent of the people...on this website will have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience. We're going to have to continue to improve it, even after November 30th." The administration's self-imposed, do-over deadline is effectively dead. Couple the still-broken websites with the flurry of brand new demands sprung on the insurance companies, and you're staring into the abyss of enrollment upheaval that could make the last few weeks look like a walk in the park. Remember, this is a one-year faux fix, setting the stage for lots of cancellation letters and stinging sticker shock hitting Americans next fall. When those blows begin to land, will Democrats close their eyes and point at the evil insurers? Good luck with that.
Meanwhile, over in the Senate, Democrats aren't mollified by Obama's scheme. In fact, they began telling reporters it wasn't good enough midway through the president's egregious performance. Harry Reid is hinting that he's going to slam the door on any votes, though:
More 2014 sen dem updates: new landrieu statement suggests she'll still push her legislation. .shaheen says she likes udall's 2 year bill— Dana Bash (@DanaBashCNN) November 14, 2013
Senate D's reluctant to put Landrieu's #Obamacare fix it bill or other legislation on the flr. Concerns about GOP "mischief."— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) November 14, 2013
House Republicans plan to move forward with their vote on the Upton bill tomorrow. Just how incoherent is Obama's cynical, desperate "solution"? This incoherent:
WH trashed 'junk' plans it will now try to restore -- and hammered Upton bill, which it will now impose via Obama decree.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) November 14, 2013
UPDATE - Two state insurance commissioners have already pulled the plug on Obama's "fix." Both are...Democrats. Their reasoning? It's destructive and logistically infeasible -- which is exactly what Kathleen Sebelius argued last week, back when the administration was still against this sort of thing. What a cluster.