ObamaCare's Rose Garden Band-Aid
The precedent goes quite a ways back; Sarah Palin probably would label it as "putting lipstick on a pig." Remember the Greek columns from the 2008 campaign? Remember the fake doctors in white lab coats in 2009? Now, when his signature legislation, ObamaCare, is widely acknowledged as a "train wreck" and a "political crisis," the president held a Rose Garden event to "address the technical problems" associated with the implementation of ObamaCare. The spectacle in the Rose Garden was a grand setting for the president to give a defense of his health care legislation, and the timing was strategic -- The [Un-]Afforable Care Act (ACA) is in a precarious position these days -- public opinion is overwhelmingly negative, and the more people learn about it, the worse the polls get. So the Rose Garden event, like so much of what comes out of the White House these days, was purely about staging -- also known as damage control, or putting a Band-Aid on ObamaCare.
The Weekly Standard described the event as an "infomercial" where the president gave phone numbers -- which by some reports didn't answer -- and website information and other data, as though the problems with ObamaCare could be solved by people having that information. The Associated Press described the event as a "health-care pep rally" that emphasized the spin: the health care law is "more than a Website."
The Rose Garden event was intended to rally support for ObamaCare and gain the president some time while experts fix the sign-up technicalities; according to Slate, federal contractors say it will be a long and extensive repair, requiring "as many as five million lines of software code" to be rewritten. To "see" the magnitude of this repair job, picture in your mind an 11-inch piece of paper, with 6 lines per inch, for a total of 66 lines of code per page. Reading and correcting those five million lines of code would be the equivalent of reading about 250 books, each one consisting of 300 pages. Good luck doing that in a hurry.
Further, the "account creation and registration problems are masking problems that will happen later," said one of the contractors. In other words, working on access problems won't fix the underlying content of the bill. Over the weekend, the administration sent senior officials to all the Sunday talk shows to try to explain why the rollout, already costing more than $400 million, has been such a failure.
With the persuasive arguments providing a foundation over the weekend, the Rose Garden rally showcased the president in the kind of spectacle that has become his trademark. He does know how to use the grandeur of the White House in the background and a diversified group of people surrounding him to create the right television image. On Monday, the president was surrounded by "consumers, small business owners, and pharmacists" when he declared the problems of implementing ObamaCare "unacceptable" and that there is "no excuse" for all the issues people have experienced in trying to access the process. He expressed his frustration and said he would describe the situation without "sugarcoating" the problems. He and his press secretary, Jay Carney, did, however, continue the unsubstantiated line that high consumer demand caused the website problems. Also, as usual, whining and "blame the GOP" crept in with sly remarks, such as this zinger: "It's time for folks to stop rooting for [ObamaCare's] failure."
All of those standing with the president (no children this time, though the most prominently visible woman was pregnant) supposedly have "benefited from the legislation already or are helping their fellow citizens learn what the law means and how they can be covered." Oddly, during the predictable rhetoric and White House grandeur, just as the president uttered the word "illness," Mr. Obama, for some reason, turned around, and the pregnant woman behind him was about to faint. The president quickly summoned help and just as quickly joked that such things happen when he "goes on too long."
The president spent 25 minutes declaring that the ACA "product is good" and claiming that "people can save money -- significant money." All this effort and all the claims are, of course, in response to the hue and cry across America that the middle class and poor are getting hit with higher premiums, cannot choose their doctor like they were promised they could, and are losing the quality of care that has in the past characterized America's health care system.
The Post article, by Chris Cillizza, points out that it was Ronald Reagan who said that when you are explaining, you are losing. Well, President Obama has been explaining his health care plan for nearly four years, and still nobody knows what's really in there. We wonder if anyone has yet read the ceiling-tall document and the even taller stack of regulations that accompany the law. Also, people worry about their health care privacy when there are complaints the sign-up process involves collecting voluminous personal -- even intimate -- data about individuals purchasing plans. Further, there are mounting concerns that the problems experienced since the law went into effect go deeper than mere technical glitches. According to the White House, there have been more than 19 million visits to the ObamaCare website, with about 500,000 people actively shopping for policies. While the White House trots out those numbers very readily, they claim that they have no idea how many individuals have successfully purchased insurance plans through ObamaCare. How is it that they can count the number of folks shopping but not the number who are buying?
Earlier this month, Gallup found that 71 percent of uninsured Americans are either "not too familiar" or "not at all familiar" with ObamaCare's health-insurance exchanges, and almost half (47 percent) said they are "not at all familiar" with them. Significantly, those numbers have remained the same to date. Keep in mind that the Congressional Budget Office expected 7 million people to be signed up for coverage by the end of the first year of ObamaCare. With all the computer malfunctioning in the sign-up process, the White House is now pushing phone or paper applications.
More and more Americans are recognizing that whether the issues are called "glitches" or "technical problems," they represent an unworkable process. Then, as CNNMoney reports, even after Americans get their applications, they find them riddled with misinformation -- as they put it, "riddled with errors."
Way too many families are finding that the "affordable" part of ObamaCare is very misleading; their premium prices and deductibles are soaring, making ObamaCare a "nightmare for families." In addition, employers are raising premiums to provide coverage for employees or cutting hours to part-time in order to avoid bankrupting the company.
In short, the carefully staged Rose Garden event and the president's reassuring words will fade from memory when Americans begin getting the bills, seeing health care quality decline, and discovering all the regulations. Instead, they'll discover that ObamaCare is full of damaging surprises and realize that it needs to be repealed and replaced.
Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., author, commentator and public speaker, is director and senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute.