An Optimistic Vision of Our Near Future
“We are going to have to obviously remarket and rebrand [Obamacare], and that will be challenging in this political environment.”
— President Obama, speaking about Obamacare, at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Summit yesterday.
Obama may or may not be stupid, but he sure as heck has a blind spot when it comes to evaluating problems. The problem with Obamacare is not the program’s branding. The problem with Obamacare is Obamacare — how it’s structured, what it requires Americans to do, what it requires insurers to do, the false promises used to sell it, and most importantly, the administration’s utter inability to do any of the basic tasks that it promised — like have the payment system built, never mind up and running, six weeks after the exchanges launch:
A crucial system for making payments to insurers from the federal Obamacare marketplace, HealthCare.gov, has yet to be built, a senior government IT official admitted Tuesday.
The official, Henry Chao, visibly stunned Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) when he said under questioning that a significant fraction of that online insurance marketplace has yet to be constructed.
“We still need to build the payments system to make the payments [to insurance companies] in January,” Chao said during testimony. That so-called financial management tool was originally supposed to be part of HealthCare.gov when it launched Oct. 1, but officials later suspended its launch as part of their effort to get the consumer interface part of the site ready.
Chao on Tuesday said other areas that need to be built include “the back-office systems, the accounting systems.”
“This means that insurers, who are already dealing with dramatically lower enrollment numbers on HealthCare.gov than they were expecting, are not going to get paid while the government gets its act together, and the software in place to makes those payments happen,” CNBC’s Dan Mangan explains.
“That’s like setting up an online bank without setting up a way to make deposits,” an industry source told CNBC.
A cynic would argue Obama’s obsessed with the “branding” because that’s the only part he really understands. We know he has conditioned his staff to avoid telling him bad news — doesn’t need the drama. He’s telling us now that the process of buying insurance is more complicated than he and his team thought, raising the question of how well they understood the entire issue throughout this process. He’s clearly not interested in digging into the details of the problem; he told us that even a week after the troubled launch, he believed it was just routine “glitches.”
The fact that we’re learning this from Chao, now, suggests that the situation is still basically the same now as it was October 1: no one in the White House really knows the status of Healthcare.gov and its repairs and implementation. They’re flying blind, making optimistic promises and hoping for the best.
The audacity of hope, you might say.
Allow me to lay out a scenario that some will find excessively optimistic, and some will find excessively pessimistic.
Everyone in America is now required to buy health insurance or pay a fine equal to 1 percent of their income, and the process they’re supposed to use to shop for and buy insurance doesn’t have a billing system. The cries to delay the individual mandate will grow deafening, but Obama will insist “full speed ahead.”
Next year, those who have had their plans canceled will be angry, those who are paying higher premiums will be angry, those who are paying the fine will be angry, the insurers sure as heck will be angry, and many of those who did manage to buy through the site will be angry once they see their premiums, co-pays, and deductibles.
And then, in fall 2014, the employer mandate kicks in, and an as-yet-unknown percentage of employers decide that it’s cheaper to pay the penalty than pay the cost of insurance for their employees. Millions more Americans are suddenly informed that their plans are canceled. Meanwhile, premiums for 2015 are higher, because insurers are dealing with the consequences of the older, sicker pool of workers who signed up in 2014.
Obama and his team will keep insisting that the health-care system is improving, contradicting the personal experience of millions of Americans.
The 2014 midterms turn into a bloodbath for Democrats. Obama spends the final two years of his presidency vetoing efforts to repeal the whole damn thing.
Here’s where I really turn into an optimist: The catastrophic failure of Obamacare will cause Americans to drastically reevaluate President Obama himself, and the criteria they used to evaluate him as a potential president in 2008 and 2012. Maybe charisma, nice speeches, a beautiful family, and perfect pant creases aren’t enough. You’re not supposed to go from being an obscure state senator to President of the United States in a four-year span. The next president can’t get the job based upon potential. We need a proven problem-solver.
In the coming years, a solid majority of Americans outside of committed liberals will begin to acknowledge the hard truth that Barack Obama has been a failure as a president. It isn’t merely that his signature reform was sold with lies and managed to exacerbate the problems of the health-care system instead of solving them. What else will be Obama’s legacy? This terrific economy we’re enjoying? The out-of-control domestic surveillance programs at the NSA? Partisan abuses of the IRS? The national debt more than doubling under Obama’s presidency? The partisan fury in Washington? Eight years of ignoring the ticking time bomb of entitlements as the Baby Boomers begin to retire?
This isn’t even touching on foreign policy. Yes, President Obama authorized the bin Laden mission and got U.S. troops out of Iraq, but the Middle East is a bloody mess, Israel feels besieged and abandoned, our allies are alienated by our NSA activities, we’re spent enormous amounts of blood and treasure in Afghanistan for inconclusive results, Russia is on the march, and we appear to be desperately trying to get a deal with the Iranians that the French think will allow Tehran to pursue a nuclear program. He has no warm relationships with any other world leader.
We on the right argued that America made the wrong call in 2008. Barack Obama is naïve in his view of the world. He did not and does not understand what causes businesses to hire people. He has way too much faith in government spending’s ability to create jobs, and is ultimately comfortable with the practices of crony capitalism. He never foresees the failures of the federal bureaucracy and rarely is upset about them for long. Scandals like Fast & Furious, the IRS abuses and Benghazi percolate under him and congressional demands for accountability are dismissed as partisan witch hunts. His cabinet is a collection of egomaniacs and tired pols who are incapable of instituting a culture of responsibility for taxpayer dollars. He is ultimately incurious about the world and has resisted reevaluating his approaches. He wings it at the worst times, instituting ‘red lines,’ then hastily retreats from his commitments.