Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review and Outlook: The ObamaCare Dozen

The Democrats who voted for the debacle are now scrambling for cover. The torrents of Affordable Care Act monsoon season aren't letting up, so Democrats are scrambling to help the victims: namely, their own careers. The Senators up for re-election in competitive states in 2014 are starting to panic, though they still aren't offering solutions for anything other than their own growing political jeopardy.
Fifteen Senate Democrats plus Colorado's Michael Bennet who chairs the Senatorial Campaign Committee sat down at the White House Wednesday, and they want all and sundry to know that they let President Obama have it. Alaska's Mark Begich put out a statement saying he chewed out the big cheese for "absolutely unacceptable" mismanagement and "an understandable crisis in confidence." He must have drafted it in advance.
Oregon's Jeff Merkley chimed in to report that even after the two-hour encounter session that was not on the public schedule, he was still "very frustrated" and "I remain deeply convinced that this is a 'show-me' moment." Asked by Politico if Democrats were losing credibility, an anonymous attendee said, "You got to have it, to lose it."

Mr. Obama held their hands and told them not to worry. But that's also what he, Bill Clinton and other horse whisperers said in 2010. The "moderates" who made theNancy Pelosi majority went on to be wiped out in the largest turnover of House seats since 1938.
Mr. Obama then comforted the party regulars that all would be well once the exchanges launched. That day arrived, sort of, since the website doesn't work. He's now urging Democrats to keep calm because the public will love it once the subsidies start to roll out. Yet insurance is being cancelled, premiums are surging and patients like Edie Sundby can't keep their doctors.
Meanwhile, the Salesman in Chief has been exposed for his fraudulent promises. Before October Mr. Obama's rhetoric seemed desperate like Shelly Levene in "Glengarry Glen Ross," repeating discredited assurances that few believed. Now it seems somewhat sinister as he tries to falsify his history of false claims.
All of which has the ObamaCare Dozen—the Democrats who each cast the decisive 60th vote and are running for re-election in 2014—fleeing for political cover. We offer a list of the dozen nearby, and they're right to worry that voters might punish ObamaCare's implementation as they did its passage. But so far the 12 are trying to pull off nothing more than confidence tricks.
New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen is leading a coalition asking for an unspecified extension of ObamaCare's March 15 enrollment deadline. Mr. Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas) and Mark Udall (Colorado) are among those on this bus, though Ms. Shaheen has special cause for alarm given that New Hampshire's joint state-federal exchange enlisted only a single insurer, whose narrow network excludes 10 of the state's 26 acute-care hospitals.
But her idea would merely draw out the technical agony, and the exchange premiums are based on assumptions of a full year of coverage. Premiums may not cover claims if people delay or forgo signing up in 2014, and then rates will spike the next year. All of this would also give the exchanges a stigma as untrustworthy, more so than even Health and Human Services incompetence.
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Jeanne Shaheen. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
The Shaheen plan also won't un-terminate insurance or help the people who face a gap in coverage through no fault of their own. Louisiana's Mary Landrieu is hoping to cauterize that crisis with a bill that supposedly allows people to keep their plan if they stay current on premiums. About 80,000 Louisiana policy holders—or half of the individual market—will be dumped in 2014, according to the state's insurance commissioner.
Here again, complex insurance contracts take months to plan financially and negotiate with providers. They could be renewed for maybe a few months but not forever, which is why the Landrieu bill is simply a new mandate ordering insurers to continue offering these plans. But the hard business truth is that these plans are already gone. The only way to solve the problem is a time machine to go back to 2010 when HHS published its deliberately restrictive rule on "grandfathering."
The Shaheen and Landrieu proposals are merely ploys for these Democrats to distance themselves from ObamaCare while still embracing it. But they can't have it both ways. Either they can vote to take down the whole regulate-subsidize-mandate apparatus for a year and propose major reforms to prevent a reprise of the last six weeks. Or else they will be enablers of the current and future disruptions, cancellations and limited health choices.
No doubt the ObamaCare Dozen noticed the Virginia Governor's race, which revealed that even presumably safe Democrats could be vulnerable on health care if Republicans can field decent candidates. As flawed and out-fundraised as GOP candidate Ken Cuccinelli was, he closed a huge gap in the polls by relentlessly belting ObamaCare in the final stretch.
Exit polls report that only 46% of the Virginia public supports ObamaCare, while 53% were opposed, 41% strongly opposed. Mr. Cuccinelli pulled 89% of those opposed. In 2014, Mr. Udall, Mr. Merkley and Virginia's Mark Warner might not be as fortunate as Terry McAuliffe.


The ObamaCare Dozen are receiving an overdue education in the damaging consequences of the bill they supported, all of which were predicted by critics in 2010. Any one of these Senators could have prevented the current madness by voting no. And now the President they empowered to govern from the ideological left has rejected even their de minimis fixes and is promising to "grind it out" even if the problems get worse. These Senators deserve to be held accountable at the ballot box.

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