ObamaCare a Planned Disaster for Political Reasons
IT experts are starting to weigh in on the spectacular fail of the ObamaCare launch, and explain what happened: political imperatives trumped everything else. The debut of ObamaCare is a perfect demonstration of why government should not be trusted with our health care.
People with common sense and reality-based principles -- in a word, conservatives -- understand that government programs are by definition political. Politicians and bureaucrats are not personally accountable for failure, as in the private sector, so failure is acceptable to them. Cost overruns, fraud, and poor service are the norm in government programs for a reason.
Politics has driven the ObamaCare launch failure from the beginning. Political consideration number one was the 2012 presidential election. The Democrats did not want voters to know there would be a huge jump in the price of insurance for most people not being subsidized. They didn't want us to know about the four- and eight-thousand dollar deductibles, and the limits on what hospitals you would have access to and what doctors you could see. They knew voters would flock to the Republican ticket to stop it.
In order to hide ObamaCare from voters, the administration didn't reveal the details of the law to the companies building the exchanges either, until safely after the election. As a result, the exchange designers weren't able to begin writing software until the spring. Less than six months to create a system this complex made failure inevitable. Obama would not have been re-elected otherwise, so the choice was easy.
A year ago, back in November 2012, the National Journal noted:
Federal agencies are sitting on a pile of major health, environmental, and financial regulations that lobbyists, congressional staffers, and former administration officials say are being held back to avoid providing ammunition to Mitt Romney and other Republican critics.
Despite looming legislative deadlines in the Affordable Care Act, court deadlines requiring environmental-protection rules, and a financial industry awaiting clarification on key reform details, the pace of regulatory release has slowed by almost half.
The explosion of federal regulations under the Democrat Big-Government Nanny was crushing our economy and disgusting citizens who care about freedom. So before the election, Nanny did a slow-mo partial shutdown, if you will, throwing every ObamaCare deadline years behind schedule:
Sources in regular contact with agencies say they've been told that new rules won't resume until after the election, and many expect an avalanche of new major rules shortly afterward. ... the anticipated surge of coming regulation has been likened to a tsunami.
Political consideration #2: It is not good politically when your opponents are right. The administration knew back in March that the system was a guaranteed fiasco, according to New York Times' sources. The subcontractors building it warned the White House over and over that it was a train wreck Politics trumped the recommended testing and delaying.
Henry Chao, the Health and Human Services Department's digital architect of the insurance marketplace, seems to have been sounding the alarm bells internally. (He certainly was externally; he famously told a group of insurers in March that "I'm pretty nervous -- I don't know about you. ... Let's just make sure it's not a third-world experience.")
Obama has not ever been pressured to compromise or change course, no matter how disastrous his policies. He has a unique partisan pass, thanks to his idol status as our first black president among the compliant liberal media.
Obama will go down in history as America's most unaccountable president. He has skated over one calamity after another, with none of the blame attached to his party -- our economic stagnation, the suffering of our neediest citizens, the destabilization of the Middle East, a looming nuclear Iran, Benghazi, the IRS, the spying on ordinary citizens and the press. None of these significant failures have mattered one whit to loyal Democrat voters.
Why would ObamaCare be different? When you are never blamed for failure, failure is acceptable. All that matters is political advantage. The worse your performance, the more important politics becomes. Obama's politics is all about defaming voters who disagree with him, so his own followers would be ashamed to listen to their valid criticism.
As Megan McArdle concludes in her superb analysis, the administration knew that delay would show Republicans as right and allow time for a citizen revolt. As the New York Times put it: "Former government officials say the White House, which was calling the shots, feared that any backtracking would further embolden Republican critics who were trying to repeal the health care law."
Better to go with failure. This decision guaranteed that chaos, leaving more Americans without insurance than ever before, but was politically the best choice. Democrat voters would put up with a "nonfunctioning system," the media would make the necessary excuses, and "if enough people in the states signed up, it would be too late for Republicans to demand a rollback."
It is now looking like the system is so broken that only 5,000 people have been able to sign up. At this rate, it will take 50 years to implement. Experts are saying it will take many months to fix, way after the deadline for penalties for not signing up.
Political consideration #3: Voters would freak out when they logged on and discovered that being affordable was not a real goal of ObamaCare. Instead, voters would discover that the Democrats had devised a system of redistributing bad luck, and in this case, the bad luck was going to fall on the young, people on Medicare Advantage, people working in small business, union workers, and the middle class. The good luck was going to fall on a small slice of Democrat supporters in a narrow income bracket, plus people in ill health.
ObamaCare's bevy of mandates, regulations, taxes, and fees drives up the cost of the insurance plans that are offered under the law's public exchanges. ...on average, the cheapest plan offered in a given state, under ObamaCare, will be 99 percent more expensive for men, and 62 percent more expensive for women, than the cheapest plan offered under the old system.
When the ObamaCare politicians and bureaucrats realized the sticker-shock rage most citizens would feel when they went on the exchanges, they went into panic mode. According to the New York Times, it was only weeks ago, in late September, that the administration decided that it was crucial that potential buyers understand how big their subsidy would be before they saw the actual insurance cost. That way, at least a few million people would be happy, and the media could run with their stories and ignore the rest as fixable and the Republicans' fault.
The reason ObamaCare websites don't work is because each person browsing the site has to fill out all his income and health data and have it cross checked with Immigration, Social Security, Homeland Security, the IRS, and penal systems before he can see what is on offer. In the world of politics, you have to apply first and find out what you're applying for second. Sound familiar? That's just how the 2,000-page legislation was passed in the first place. We still haven't learned what was in it, perhaps because the regulations run 10,500 pages. (Is this insane? How can Democrats stomach this approach to life-and-death medical care?)
Political consideration #4: We've seen how Democrats kept secret what ObamaCare included or cost until after the election, when people would be forced to sign up by law or pay higher taxes. They figured they could run with a broken, costly system all the way, by clamoring for more money and more power to fix it, until our private medical system is totally broken. In the world of political logic, this makes perfect sense.
There were far simpler Republican solutions to help people with pre-existing conditions, such as a subsidized insurance pool for the uninsurable that would not have tampered with the entire health care system. Free or low-cost clinics could serve uninsured people who need basic services, at a cost of a few billion, not trillions of dollars. If doctors were protected from trial lawyers, everyone's insurance would go down. Same for allowing competition along state lines. Removing government mandates would allow insurers to offer low-cost catastrophic insurance, which is all the young and healthy actually need. These were simple, non-intrusive free-market solutions that would have given Republicans a lot of gratitude from voters. Hence, they were all rejected by Obama's super-majority and veto threats.
Doing without a huge government bureaucracy and regulatory agency was not politically appealing to the European-style social democrats who dominate the Democratic Party. They want government control. Democrats believe ideologically in socialized medicine. Obama, Reid, and others are on the record saying ObamaCare is just a step towards national health care.
Many of their core voters welcome this, and more centrist Democrat voters didn't bother looking at the details. They were happy to support Obama. They trust government authority. They believe that government is helpful and benign and fair. Millennials have been raised to think the American way of free enterprise, competition, and freedom of choice is a greedy, mean-spirited, and evil system. Democrats wanted to dismantle -- some say destroy -- the greatest medical care in the world in order to make it conform to their political ideals.
We'll see how well the voters are pleased with what they've been served. Ted Cruz may have the last laugh.