The rollout of Obamacare is less than a month old and it’s already the “train wreck” that some warned about. Millions of Americans have received notifications that their insurance — which they chose and wanted to keep — has been canceled because of the regulations in Obamacare, despite what the president promised. Meanwhile, the website that was supposed to enable Americans to sign up for the health insurance they are now required by law to purchase doesn’t work. No one knows when it can be fixed.
It didn’t have to be this way. In the days before the government shutdown, some of us supported a compromise to break the deadlock that had gripped the Capitol. The House actually passed it. It simply called for a one-year delay of the individual mandate to prevent some of the very problems we are now witnessing. We all know what followed. Senator Harry Reid declared the offer “pointless,” and rejected it. Democrats were unwilling to compromise on Obamacare, even to keep the government open, even when it was clear that the system was not ready. And so on October 1, the Obamacare rollout began — and promptly ground to a halt.
Warnings about the impending failure of the Obamacare rollout have been ongoing for months, from both sides of the aisle. All the way back in April, Senator Baucus, one of the leading proponents of the president’s health-care-reform bill, warned that the implementation of the law was shaping up to be a “train wreck.” His remark turned out to be prescient.
I also expressed my concerns about the rollout of Obamacare. In an August letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, I wrote that I had “ongoing concerns about the Information Technology (IT) capabilities of the Marketplace to handle the large number of individuals who will be utilizing the portal to obtain health insurance.” I urged the secretary to “delay the start of the enrollment period until the necessary leadership and preparation are in place to ensure that the Marketplace can handle the volume on day one of enrollment.”
Secretary Sebelius never responded to my letter, and given the meltdown of the Obamacare website since it went online October 1 and the subsequent finger-pointing from supposedly responsible parties, it’s clear that HHS did little to address my concerns, either.
Now many Democrats are beginning to come around, expressing support for the delay of Obamacare that some of us have been asking for all along. But delay alone does not go far enough.
The president has sought to reassure the American people that Obamacare is “more than just a website.” He’s right, and that is even more reason to be concerned. Every day, we learn a little bit more about what life under Obamacare is going to entail. A website can be fixed. But the problems at the heart of Obamacare go to the very core of what President Obama promised the American people his health-care reform would accomplish. Liking your health care does not mean you will get to keep it; reports warn that Obamacare will force up to 10 million Americans to give up their chosen insurance policy. Meanwhile, the choices they are left with to replace that insurance may cost up to ten times what they were paying before. Data from the Ohio Department of Insurance has already shown a 41 percent average increase in premiums for consumers in the individual market.
The president promised that Obamacare would allow people to keep their insurance while making health care cheaper and more available. The rollout of Obamacare is less than a month old, and already those promises have been broken. Even more troubling, we are learning that the White House knew those promises could never be kept when they were made.
These failings are endemic to Obamacare, and no short-term fix will cure them. Obamacare should be delayed, and then it should be repealed and replaced with real health-care reform that lowers costs, increases choice, and improves the quality of care.
The American people are beginning to see the reality of what some of us have warned about for many months. Obamacare is not ready for prime time, and it looks like it is only going to get worse.
— Rob Portman is a U.S. senator from Ohio and a member of the Senate budget and finance committees.