“Unbelievable. A new low. I’m so ashamed.” So remarked Boon to his girlfriend Katie in the movie “Animal House,” offering a fake apology for another raucous fraternity party just before Delta House’s downfall at the hands of Dean Wormer.
That same kind of cavalier nonchalance about failure has been on display in Washington. Indeed, the Obamacare rollout has set a new benchmark for failure and has redefined government incompetence. Who’s now complaining about the post office? At least that website works.
If hope was the mantra for Obama’s first term, the Obamacare rollout is yet the latest demonstration that failure is the dominant theme of Obama’s second: failure to enforce the Syrian red line, failure to address Iran’s nuclear buildup, failure to reform immigration, failure to reform long term entitlements, and failure to hold anyone accountable for the Benghazi scandal.
Importantly, finally, truth has broken through. Faced with mounting evidence of his administration’s dishonesty in the campaign to sell the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the president belatedly conceded that no matter how much you like your health care plan, or your doctor, you can’t keep them if they don’t meet Obamacare standards. In Boston on Wednesday, the president said, “For the vast majority of people who have health insurance that works, you can keep it.” And there’s the rub.
Who decides whether you have health insurance that works? Obama does. Who decides whether your doctor is good enough for you? Obama does. Who decides what your health care policy need include? Obama does.
In Boston, the president sought to describe the ACA as “competition” and “choice.” Yet his health care bill undermines both. It has caused insurers to cease selling policies in certain states. It has caused employers to drop coverage for many workers and reduce, as Forever 21 did, the number of full time workers to avoid the bill’s reach. It has caused increased premiums for middle class individuals and families, and has caused insurers nationwide to cancel millions of policies. And, if the healthcare.gov website is never fixed, a possibility that’s looking likelier by the day, then consumers who purchase insurance on the open market will literally have no choices at all.
The president claimed the cancellations are nothing more than insurance companies offering people the option to get on “better” plans. But “better” in this linguistic contortion doesn’t mean better, it means “more expensive,” “not what you need,” or “unattainable.” This is why Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who is facing re-election next year, is writing a bill that will allow Americans to do what President Obama promised: keep their health care plans. Likewise, there is a bipartisan push to delay the individual insurance mandate for one year so as to not penalize people left without insurance as a result of HHS’ incompetence.
After failing to abolish the ACA through legislative or legal means, Republicans have been given an opening. Blessed with such an opportunity, what is the proper GOP response?
First, until Election Day next November, the GOP must stress the non-political element of this story, rank incompetence. Regardless of how voters feel about politics, everyone understands incompetence, and no one votes for it. Nor do voters have patience for a president who increasingly appears to be a hapless bystander of his own bad policies. Leading from behind has apparently found its way into domestic policy.
Voters need to be reminded that the Obama administration had three years to construct the exchanges and the website portal. To accomplish this, the administration chose a Canadian company, CGI, which had a track record of large scale tech failures in Canada. The only explanation for this seems to be the fact that one of CGI’s heads is a former classmate of Michelle Obama. Competence was evidently not a requirement for getting the no-bid contract. It should be for getting elected.
Second, the GOP must focus on how the bill hurts ordinary Americans. Obamacare restricts their ability to choose their own health plan, leaving them paying more money for worse coverage they didn’t choose and don’t need.
Finally, the GOP must adopt the Hippocratic Oath as its own: do no harm. Get out of the way and let Obamacare and the second Obama term self-destruct. In practice, this means avoiding intra-party spats and focusing on points of agreement. For instance, not a single Republican voted for Obamacare; voters should be reminded of this constantly. Further, the party of healthcare.gov simply cannot be trusted to “reform” anything, including the immigration system.
Sometimes the only way to overcome an infection is to let it “run its course.” The choice facing the GOP is the same. The ACA will continue its path of destruction as its implementation progresses. The GOP gains nothing by futile obstruction of the inevitable. In the aftermath of the wreckage, voters will demand an alternative. Does the GOP have one?