Civil War: Democrats Tearing Themselves Apart Over Obamacare

Posted: Nov 14, 2013 10:27 AM
Civil War: Democrats Tearing Themselves Apart Over Obamacare

Where to begin? How about right here:

Democrats are on the verge of abandoning President Barack Obama on vital elements of his signature health care law at a time when his poll numbers have been sliding with three years left to go in his second term. House Democrats used a closed-door meeting Wednesday to hammer the White House’s handling of the Obamacare rollout and aftermath. And Senate Democratic leaders have given their assent for the party’s most vulnerable lawmakers to sign onto efforts to adjust the health care law. At Wednesday’s raucous caucus meeting, Democrats blasted the White House for failing to come up with a way to ensure that President Barack Obama’s if-you-like-it-you-can-keep-it promise about health insurance plans will be fulfilled. And they’re unconvinced the White House will meet its self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to fix the website. “They’re telling us all about actuarial tables and all about how the process would work and all of this is fine and great and it would be great in a classroom and you would get an A on your test, but this isn’t about getting an A on your test, this is about ads,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis liberal...“The caucus is very, very upset about the fact that the process hasn’t worked, and Republicans have this bill,” Cohen said...“It’s ugly,” said one Democratic source in the meeting. “There’s no way Obama and Pelosi will let their legacy go down in flames. I just wouldn’t want to be from a swing district right now. Or anything that closely resembles one.”

Let's unpack these quotes. Democrats "blasted the White House" for not inventing a solution to the "keep your plan" mess. Excuse me, but this outcome was always assured. It was part of the entire scheme. Obamacare's finances need younger, healthier people who get booted onto more expensive plans to offset the major hit insurers would sustain by taking on sick people with pre-existing conditions (which the law requires them to do). "You can keep your plan" was a politically-motivated lie to tamp down the anti-Obamcare insurrection at the time. It was never a promise that was intended to be kept. Democrats who are freaking out over this reality now were either scandalously ignorant about the consequences of their votes in 2010, or they're desperately posturing now that they're getting bitten in the ass. Cohen's quotes are real eye-openers because he represents a heavily liberal district. He basically told White House officials that he doesn't care about the policy consequences of voting for any of the "keep your plan" bills currently under discussion. He cares about the ads Republicans will run against him if he stays loyal to the party. This attitude is very short-sighted. These "fixes" would make matters worse in ways that will unravel over the next 11 months. If people are allowed to keep their old plans, the remaining risk pool will skew heavily older and sicker. Insurance companies will have no choice but to compensate by raising rates across the board. This bout of sticker shock will the early fall of next year, right before the elections. Imagine those ads, Congressman. Liberal Obamacare supporters like Sahil Kapur and Ezra Klein are screaming bloody murder over these issues -- but as Cohen says, many Democrats aren't interested in the data. They feel panicked now, and want a quick solution. In essence, this is what Obama is up against:

The anonymous quote about swing districts suggests that Democrats are terrified that the GOP's 2014 map could expand in surprising ways because of Obamacare -- which may explain why blue state Democrats like Sen. Jeff Merkley are piling on to the Landrieu bandwagon. Speaking of the Senate, there are now three -- count 'em, three -- Democratic proposals to delay and undo parts of Obamacare. Landrieu and Feinstein have theirs, plus:

WaPo's Greg Sargent is hearing that Democratic leaders are struggling to keep their troops in line ahead of Friday's House votes, but he also hints that Harry Reid may not allow votes on any of the bipartisan bills. If he decides to obstruct those votes, Democrats will get hammered for it, and he'll have a lot of unhappy campers in his caucus. Again, read Ezra Klein and TPM for primers on why these bills will make Obamacare an even bigger nightmare. But between the ghastly polling and the gruesome enrollment numbers, many Democrats are willing to glom onto anything that even resembles a temporary escape hatch. This meeting should be fun. Great work all around, guys.

- If reports about Obama's forthcoming announcement are accurate, it appears he'll embrace his own version of Upton/Landrieu. It will almost certainly be an administrative fix, in order to head off or downplay any embarrassing legislative votes. The result? A temporary, quite possibly infeasible, quickie solution that deepens the adverse selection problem, and expires next fall. Unless he announces another patch, a new spate of cancellation notices and premium increases will drop right before the election. Wow.