Hassett: Obama's house of cards


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Like many Americans, I was initially very skeptical about Obamacare. I thought it was designed with too much idealism and grand ideas while sorely lacking in pragmatism. In order to get the act passed through Congress, many of the original provisions of the law had to be diluted or removed altogether.

The result, to me anyway, looked like a bastardized act born of two parties that couldn’t agree on how long a ruler is, let alone how to design a monumental overhaul of the health-insurance system.

But as Republicans began a crusade against Obamacare, ending in a 16-daylong federal government shutdown, the actual facts of how the law would affect Americans were lost in the rhetoric.

“All across the country Americans are suffering because of Obamacare,” proclaimed Republican Sen. Ted Cruz during a 21-hour tirade against the act in September.

Republicans appeared to be exaggerating the negatives of the Affordable Care Act, taking a stand (literally, in Cruz’s case) in order to save face politically with the tea party, which is notoriously good at raising a stink.

Even as Obamacare’s online marketplace for buying health insurance launched, or more accurately, failed to launch as bugs and site outages prevented most visitors from purchasing a plan, public opinion toward the act itself didn’t change much.

In August, 41 percent of Americans approved of the law in a Gallup poll, while 49 percent disapproved. From Oct. 26-28, nearly a month after the health-care website went live, 44 percent said they approved, and 47 percent disapproved.

Was I wrong about Obamacare? I thought. What if somehow, miraculously, a divided legislative body had passed a cohesive and effective law, despite the fact that nobody in Congress seemed to understand how this law worked?

Yet now, three and a half years since the Affordable Care Act was pushed through, serious issues with the overhaul are coming to light. Obamacare was sold to us as a promising new development. But what we got was a house of cards.

The first signs of trouble came last week, when the president’s words on the act from 2009 came back to haunt him: “if you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

Arguably, that promise was necessary to sway the public on Obamacare. And as we now know, that promise was broken. Last week, millions were informed via mail that their health-insurance plans have been canceled because they didn’t meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Oops.

On Nov. 7, Obama apologized to those who found their plans cancelled, but White House Press Secretary Jay Carney kept on the offensive. “… We’re talking about 5 percent of the population,” he said, referring to the portion of Americans who will need to buy a new health-insurance plan.

Except that’s not true. At all. The so-called grandfather clause in the law that allows for individuals to keep the plan they already pay for excludes a hell of a lot more than 5 percent of the population.

In fact, the Obama administration itself estimated in a 2010 Federal Register document that the “mid-range estimate is that 66 percent of small-employer plans and 45 percent of large employer plans will relinquish their grandfather status by the end of 2013,” requiring individuals covered by those plans to purchase new ones through the healthcare.gov website. Yeah, THAT website.

It seems that the more we learn about Obamacare, the more unstable the whole thing seems. It was supposed to reduce the cost of health-care insurance. But not for the young and healthy, who will have to pay more to cover the rest of the population. It was supposed to ensure that those who liked their plan could stay on their plan. But the majority of employer-sponsored plans will be canceled.

These half-truths and backtracking from the president on the Affordable Care Act all point to an troubling possibility: The crowning achievement of Obama’s presidency was ill-conceived from the start. Maybe the law is too convoluted and contradictory to stand on its own and needs to be rewritten entirely.

If that’s the case, then it’s best to let Obama’s house of cards collapse.

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.