If ACA is a turkey, then Obama’s a lame duck by Marjorie Arons-Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons-Barron’s own blog.

The talking heads are calling this year’s snafus in the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act Obama’s Katrina, likening it to the FEMA debacle in responding to the deadly 2005 hurricane that wasted Louisiana.  I think the handling of the ACA roll-out is worse.

Katrina is a code word for an epic bureaucratic screw-up, a failed response to a crisis…but Katrina itself was an act of nature and not created by the George W. Bush.   The ACA was a complex policy accomplishment, the manmade  creation of the Obama administration.  While snafus in ACA, especially the website shortcomings, were also the product of government ineptitude or worse, the various interrelated ACA problems have been exacerbated by the President’s abysmal or nonexistent communication strategy… his abject failure to use his bully pulpit to explain effectively the law’s rationale and why it is important public policy.

All major policy changes have had dodgy roll-outs. Think Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at the federal level and at the state level the earliest stages of the Massachusetts “Romneycare” health policy implementation.  No one expected everything to run smoothly in October, but we reasonably expected that by November those who wished to enroll could indeed do so.  The President has apologized for the glitches, but this may be too little too late if promised corrections are not made by the end of this month.

The signature accomplishment of his Presidency could become the signature and defining failure.

Obama compounded the technical problems by constantly declaring that those who wanted to keep their current coverage could do so.  The small print, of course, was that they could keep the policies if the coverage crossed a certain minimum threshold.  Policies that ripped people off, with low premiums but humungous deductibles and crippling restrictions, could not continue to be offered.  But rarely, if ever, did the President use his bully pulpit to explain that there would be a transition into policies that actually covered enough health care to be meaningful.  Following that, if enough people traded up, the overall costs would be kept down.

I am left wondering if, with all the attention Obama paid to the politics of the Affordable Care Act, he really understood the policy minutiae that he needed to lay out for the American people. [Is it better to think he was naïve, stupid or mendacious?] The Affordable Care Act was not a great leap toward universal health care, which our wealthy and powerful nation has desperately needed, but a distinctively American pragmatic, free enterprise, private sector-rooted response to a critical problem. It started as a Republican think tank recommendation.

Few did a better job of explaining the individual mandate concept than did Mitt Romney, who as governor decried the uncovered ”invulnerable” free riders of the health care system whose use of expensive emergency rooms as their primary care option drove up  healthcare premiums and everyone else’s taxes.

But the President rarely, if ever, made the ACA case with clarity or energy.  He failed to tell compelling stories or even share memorable  anecdotes. As one Facebook writer suggested, the President should have said, in response to recent troubles, ”I underestimated the affection many Americans have for being ripped off by unscrupulous insurance companies.” He should never have made an absolute promise of an untruth. Even hyped up detergent advertising limits itself to 99.8 percent pure claims.

Obama could have asked for regulations that required red letter warnings on all substandard policies,  like the horrific pictures on cigarette packs. He should have  advocated regulations  requiring the so-called invulnerable  opt-outers to  sign informed  consent forms acknowledging that they knew that their bargain rate insurance policies would be worthless in the face of named health crises and that, in keeping their defective policies, they voluntarily would   chose bankruptcy rather than take a penny of any taxpayer-subsidized hospital services.

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, a majority of Americans for the first time in his Presidency view Obama as dishonest and untrustworthy .  And he brought it on himself. The master orator has been a terrible communicator, too little, too late and too sketchy. His last minute  scrambling to adjust the law to permit the continuation of substandard plans confuses consumers, state regulators and insurance companies. It  does not inspire confidence.

Presidential lying  does not necessarily limit one’s legacy or post presidency earning power. Just ask Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton. But it can irrevocably diminish second- term effectiveness. Obama has handed the Republicans a hammer to wield in the mid-term elections. It’s  a gift to make people forget about the government shutdown and GOP’s  persistent failure to articulate  a positive alternative to ACA and other Obama proposals .

Even many Democrats are now angry  with him, especially those concerned about losing  races in 2014. There’s still time to salvage public acceptance of the ACA, but the Administration had better get the website up and running smoothly post Thanksgiving.  Or this once heralded landmark law could become an indigestible turkey,  and  this president will fast become a lame duck.

I welcome your comments in the section below.

One Response to If ACA is a turkey, then Obama’s a lame duck by Marjorie Arons-Barron

  1. Joan says:

    For Marjorie to say that the plans people had were substandard makes a mockery of the countless Americans who have shared their personal stories with us of losing the health care coverage they loved. Only to be forced into the exchanges where they have found higher prices and huge deductibles. Coverage they want isn’t available and coverage they don’t want like maternity care for 55 year old men is forced upon them. Who is she or some government bureaucrat to decide what works best for these Americans?

    Those of us who paid attention and read all we could on the law before we found out what was in the law knew it was destined for disaster. The President promised those who like their healthcare could keep their healthcare period. It was a lie and he knew it. The regulations that came out from his HHS department in 2010 clearly stated any minute change was going to void the grandfathering of any plan and all plans had to carry certain coverages. That all but guaranteed the collapse of the individual market. It happened to my employer sponsored plan when the copay went up $10.00. Minor adjustment, major changes to the plan.

    The Presidents “fix” is not a fix at all. It’s completely dishonest only meant to provide cover for democrats. First he has no authority according to our constitution to make changes to laws passed by congress. He is not a king. He had no legal authority to delay the implementation for businesses either. But did it anyway. If this were George Bush people like Marjorie and other left wing progressives would be apoplectic.

    Second, states regulate insurance not the federal government. They have already set rates for next year based on complicated risk pools. The President knows full well They’re not going to go back and offer these policies. Why should they after he’s blamed them for the entire debacle and branded them bad apples? He’s offering a solution that doesn’t exist. Completely disingenuous.

    The website is a complete disaster and doesn’t look like it’s going to be solved any time soon. If you like Obama 1.0 just wait for Obama 2.0 when the employer mandates start hitting. People will be laid off once the mandate that full time is now defined as 30 versus 35 hours and new expensive coverages are required. This costs money. Progressives seem to think there is an endless supply of money available to all companies. They’ll just change hours on employees because they’ll have no other options available and push them onto non working high priced exchanges.

    Thanks Democrats for handing Republicans the mid term elections. I don’t think demonizing republicans, placing the race card, or resurrecting the war on women, is going to work this time around. The republicans offered a one year delay of obamacare. You should have taken it and used the time to try and fix this monstrosity. Even though I don’t believe it can be.

    People keep comparing this to social security. It’s one thing to pay over your lifetime a little bit out of your paycheck for social security and Medicare towards your own retirement. It’s quite another to write out checks to pay huge premiums every month to the federal government for insurance you don’t need that subsidize someone else.