Like some cheesy infomercial that tries to convince you of how great its product is, the Obama administration continues to tell us about the wonders of Obamacare. But a critical difference between Obamacare and the “as seen on TV” product is that the sales number and website for the latter always works, (even if the product doesn’t).
That’s the first insult of the government’s healthcare site: it can’t competently sell you what you’re being forced to buy.
So, how did we get here? Because Obama and other Democrats made political promises that were necessary in order for the bill to have any chance of becoming law. Promises that turned out to be, shall we say, slightly less reliable than the standard infomercial.
Promise: “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it”. Reality: you can’t keep your insurance plan if it is cancelled because the government tells your insurance company that it doesn’t comply with new regulations, or if your employer stops providing it because those regulations make the costs go up. In fact if you like your job you may not be able to keep it either – especially if your employer needs to drop enough employees to avoid higher costs; or you may lose hours on the job (and thus income) so as not to be deemed a full-time employee.
Promise: “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. Reality: not if he quits because of the costs and complications of the law, or if your “new” insurance plan doesn’t include your doctor in it’s network of approved providers.
Promise: Obamacare’s would not cover abortion. This was such a huge debate that there were several dozen pro-life Democrats who refused to support the bill until changes were made to guarantee abortion would not be covered. Reality: it does, because HHS regulations require that insurance plans cover prescriptions for abortion inducing medications – a regulation that even applies to religious organizations.
Promise: Congress will have to abide by it too. The bill required that members of Congress would have to live under the same rules that they were passing for the rest of us. Reality: Obama granted Congress a waiver, which he doesn’t have the power to do, (but what’s that between friends?). It really does make you wonder why we need to get so worked up over this business of passing laws if they don’t actually mean anything.
Promise: It will lower costs. Reality: most people are seeing increases in monthly premiums, even after government subsidies. And any plans that are actually cheaper come by way of narrowing the networks of hospitals and doctors you can use, or by raising your out-of-pocket expenses.
Promise: It will be easy! Per Obama, “It’s a website where you can compare and purchase affordable health insurance plans, side-by-side, the same way you shop for a plane ticket on Kayak – or the same way you shop for a TV on Amazon”. Reality: not so much. Three years and over half a billion tax dollars later, the government serves up a website that no one can use if they need to buy the insurance that the law says they must have.
Many Republicans have been worried that if Americans become accustomed to Obamacare, we will never get rid of it. A reasonable fear, when it comes to the political consequences of government programs, and precisely what Democrats hoped when they got bold enough to pass it despite never having the support of a majority of the American people. But the reality seems to be that Obamacare will be a political hobgoblin that will haunt Democrats for years to come.
This isn’t just a run-of-the-mill government program. It covers one-sixth of the US economy, and an area that is extremely personal to every American. That means lots of political exposure for Democrats – and lots of opportunities for Republicans.
It’s an ironclad rule of politics that things behind the scenes are much worse than they are presented to the public. Applied to Obamacare, this leaves many Democrats more nervous than they let on. But despite its flaws, Republicans in Congress will never help “fix it”. As they say in NASCAR, Democrats will have to “run what they’ve brought to the track”.
In the end, Obamacare may be a “bridge too far” for big government liberalism. It’s a failure that could ONLY come from government, and it puts a bright spotlight on the limitations of big government for our increasing number of “low information” voters to see.
As Margaret Thatcher once said, “First you win the argument, then you win the vote”. During the next few months conservatives should focus on the realities of Obamacare; to build and control the narrative while it’s still being written. This will provide all the argument we need to “win the vote” on this and many other issues in the future.
Undermining faith in big government will be a bonus.