When Bill Clinton speaks, Democrats listen. But Bill Clinton, as we know all too well, is not an honest broker. He does what’s best for himself first, people also named Clinton second – and, if there is time left, others.
But he still has high approval ratings and is a fundraising machine for Democrats, which means they listen to him. So when he came out this week and said, “I personally believe, even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got” about the millions of Americans losing their health insurance thanks to Obamacare, it was a watershed moment.
It could be the straw that at least starts to break the camel’s back. But, if some Republicans get their way, it won’t be.
Support in Congress from Democrats for these “if you like your plan you can keep it” bills is growing. The biggest defection from the White House line came when Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., said she would co-sponsor legislation Sen. Mary Landrieu, R-La., is pushing that will allow people who’ve lost coverage they like to keep it. Landrieu is up of re-election next year in a red state, so her motives are clear. Feinstein isn’t, and even if she were she could execute puppies on live TV and still win by 20 points.
But there are a couple of problems here.
First, Feinstein isn’t just coming at this from some altruistic perspective. Although she is safe in her position, her position is much worse if Republicans re-take the Senate next year. Progressives such as Feinstein knew millions would lose their coverage in the individual market, and millions more will lose their employer-provided coverage in coming years. It was all part of the plan. Government can’t completely take over health care at once, so it takes baby-steps. Feinstein knows this. She’s not looking to help people; she’s looking to help the cause.
Obamacare is supposed to fail – it’s just supposed to take a few years as opposed to a few days. They thought if private insurance companies start to fold or if costs skyrocket five or 10 years down the road, progressives could say, “Well, we tried a private-sector solution and it didn’t work. Now we need to move to a single-payer system.” That would place the blame on greedy corporations for setting up a framework that couldn’t work and let government emerge as the hero coming to the rescue.
But the horse has dropped dead right out of the gate – too soon for it to be blamed on the private sector. And blame will go where it deserves - to the government. If people decide government can’t even set up a semi-private system of health insurance, they are unlikely to let it run the whole system.
This is progressive’s biggest fear. It has to be avoided. Hence, Landrieu’s legislation.
But Landrieu’s legislation is a classic example of symbolism over substance. The title, “The Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act,” is classic Washington. Name a bill something warm and fuzzy so people can’t vote against it. But the promise is hollow.
Those cancelled plans are gone – killed by Obamacare. And most of them are not coming back.
Healthcare law, in spite of how it’s portrayed, is not something simple that a bill can make or break on a whim. Each state has regulatory boards that oversee all the plans in their states. Plans have to be submitted to prove they meet with each state’s mandates, etc. More than that, there are contracts with doctors, hospitals and all manner of other vendors, and all that can’t be undone on a moment’s notice. There are too many moving parts, laws and regulations.
In a way, the progressives’ regulatory state is the biggest hurdle to altering the progressive regulatory state to save the progressives regulatory state. It’s karma. But it’s also a scam.
If Landrieu’s legislation, or any like it proposed by either Democrats and Republicans, become law, it won’t bring back anyone’s canceled plans. It may save some people who are still months away from their plans being canceled, but even that is doubtful. But what it will do is provide cover to Democrats feeling the crush of their constituents’ anger. They’ll be able to say, “We tried, but those insurance companies wouldn’t bring back those plans because they’re greedy.” The media coverage would follow, and we’d be exactly where we are now, only with the “problem solved.”
Republicans need to not fall for this. Democrats and the White House knew what they were doing when they passed Obamacare. They knew people would lose their coverage and they did it anyway. They did it on purpose because they need at least 7 million people to enter the Obamacare exchanges and pay full-freight. Since people wouldn’t have voluntarily left plans they liked and enter the exchanges, they had to be forced to if they wanted insurance. Simple. Evil, but simple.
But what Democrats didn’t plan for was for people to be so thoroughly angry about losing their plans, paying more to replace them and – indignity on top of indignities – to encounter a dysfunctional website when they set about trying to find new insurance.
That cover they’re seeking is not actual policy change cover – it’s cosmetic. If the Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act becomes law that will mean problem solved for the Democrats. This affects only about 5 million people so far, so most Americans – who are not affected – would move on, assuming the worst of ACA had been “fixed.” But it hasn’t been fixed, and it can’t be so long as Obamacare is in place.
There is no going back; there’s only going forward. And going forward means the collapse and/or overwhelming rejection of Obamacare by voters next year if Republicans don’t fall for this cosmetic “fix.”
Bill Clinton said “the federal government” made this commitment to the American people, but it didn’t. President Obama did, Democrats did. The American people remember that, and will remember that, unless Republicans take partial ownership of this mess by supporting feel-good but meaningless cosmetic legislation designed to limp this monster past the next election cycle. They shouldn’t do it.