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Between the Lines: No Cheers for Obamacare

The president’s political problems are beside the point.

Comments (3)
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A recent editorial in the Springfield Republican defending Obamacare revealed just how shallow the region’s biggest daily paper can be in its endless pandering to Democrats. The Republican’s insipid “Obamacare’s critics continue their carping” represents the disconnect between the world of politics and media and the real world­ —a scary world filled with envelopes that come day after day into American homes bearing phrases like “Important Plan Information” and “News About Changes to Your Plan.” Or my favorite: “This Is Not a Bill.”

It’s not so scary in the Republican’s view. “The doctor is in, and the Website is up,” the Dec. 3 editorial begins. “While this won’t come close to quieting Obamacare’s army of critics, it does provide an opportunity to ask what exactly it is they are after.” Who are the critics? Congressional Republicans, of course. And what do they want? To see Obama fail. The newspaper pulls out a favorite White House talking point: “Opposing everything the president supports isn’t a policy.”

But Congressional Republicans aren’t the critics who matter. And the political damage Obamacare has done and will do to Democrats in the months to come is hardly an issue of immediate importance for anyone who doesn’t earn a living playing politics.

I’m not a Republican (not a Democrat, either) and I think Obamacare is a mess. I think it does a few very important good things, but its overall design and implementation are deeply flawed. For me, the name of the law—the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—illuminates the fork in the road: the Patient Protection part works; the Affordable Care part doesn’t.

For all its merits, with all the smart people who work in healthcare, the system is warped by bureaucratic ineptitude and self-interest at the highest ranks of government and industry. Obamacare won’t change that. Its botched implementation and Obama’s open-field run around unpopular mandates are harbingers of more trouble ahead.

“So there’s more work to be done. But before despairing, how about pausing to cheer the successes?” the Republican pleads.

No. I despair. Dealing with my mother’s healthcare, I see what kind of “Important Plan Information” bombards people in their 70s. Plans to read, forms to complete, bills to pay, questions to answer. Yet when we meet directly with health care providers, we spend hours completing more paperwork, explaining details repeatedly to a poorly connected network of practitioners who, despite their best efforts, seem just as lost in the mess as we are.

As a Massachusetts resident, I’ve witnessed what happens when a legitimate impulse toward healthcare reform is skewed by political “compromise.” Here we did a good thing, insuring many who were previously uninsured. But we hurt others by mandating that everyone buy insurance and sidestepping the larger failings of the system. While Commonwealth Care no doubt improved healthcare for some, most people not receiving subsidized care continue to see skyrocketing increases and reductions in coverage. Obamacare also protects patient’s rights in important ways, but it is also undermined by reliance on mandates and by failure to look at the appalling difficulties all Americans, not just the poor, confront daily in their battle for health.•

 

Comments (3)
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Tom Vannah and I are basically on the same page with regards to what's needed for better health care policy, but I find the tone of this article objectionable. Let us try to be charitable and enouraging towards an effort that has managed to get started despite almost insurmountable odds, rather than harshly condemning its fragile beginnings. Yes, it is highly flawed - so let us draw a metaphor for the circumstances under which it has been born: You desire to build a large house for the homeless - not a temporary emergency shelter, a real home within which the lives of those who have not been given a fair chance can flourish. As you try to build it, a gang of hooligans comes along, blindfolds you, ties heavy weights to both your arms, ties your legs together, comes to the job site every night to steal tools and materials and destroy the work you did the previous day. What's worse, said gang of hooligans is quite wealthy from the proceeds of previous crimes, and so is able to influence most of your local newspapers, radio and TV stations to publish completely false and misleading scare stories about the home you're attempting to build, turning against you the very neighbors who should be supporting you. SOMEHOW, against all of these odds, something gets built. It's a mere shadow of what was planned, and in the scramble to get anything built at all, not enough attention was paid to how it would be opened and administered - made more difficult by the fact that all the opposition forced you to re-plan constantly. So: Is the end result disappointing? Absolutely. Should we nonetheless cheer the builder and give them our full support towards building a better house: Absolutely.

Posted by Gordon Kramer on 12.13.13 at 6:44

Gordon,

Unless you are prepared to produce evidence that republicans hacked into the website and deleted code thus breaking the website, your example makes no sense.

A more accurate example would be that you decided to build a house with poor structure in a swamp. I tell you it's a bad idea and won't work but you finagle a way to get the green light and do it anyway. Upon completion it immediately starts to sink in the mud and no one can even help because the contruction is fundamentally flawed. I and reality say it should just be knocked down.

So I didn't support you in the first place because it was a bad plan that won't work. When you prove me right, how is it then my fault that you insisted on doing it? It's like me telling you it's a bad idea to build a snowman in front of a heater. You do it anyway and when it's melting you get pissed I won't help you get more heaters to "fix it." This is your logic deconstructed.

Posted by Ben on 12.13.13 at 13:21

Ben is exactly right and let's add some numbers: the Obama administration spent over $600 million and four years trying to do something that most Stanford grad students can do in their garage - build a web site.

The Republicans had no hand in this train wreck. Nevertheless, it's telling that you think Obama should be applauded for the effort. That's the rallying call of the Liberal: good intentions trump actual results.

Posted by K. Sebelius on 12.13.13 at 19:07
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