ObamaCare's Chicago Moment
Bowing to pressure from his own party, President Obama caved on Obamacare, extending by fiat the cancelled health insurance policies that have his fellow Democrats facing next year's elections with dread. Even California Senator Barbara Boxer, who has been a cheerleader for ObamaCare and has such a safe seat that most people here think she arrived in the Senate with George Washington, was seeking an extension. Boxer is not even up for reelection until 2016.
But if Obama learned anything while being a community organizer in Chicago and picketing banks to implement the community reinvestment act that was the linchpin for the financial disaster of 2008, it was that the public might not understand all the complex nuances of politics; they do understand when political screw ups touch their everyday existence. One of the most iconic images of the decline of the Chicago Democratic machine (or organization as the insiders like to call it) is Mayor Michael Bilandic standing on LaSalle Street in the middle of the blizzard of 1979.
The handsome and sartorial-savvy Bilandic knew a good photo op when he saw it and a good promise when he needed to make it. But the awful thing about snow is that if you cannot get it off the streets, open the parking lots, and get the Chicago Transit Authority working, everyone knows you're a liar. It doesn't make a difference how handsome you are, how nicely attired, or how scripted your pitch, even a Machine stalwart can look out the window and see that while you're raining subterfuge on the television, the snow is not coming off the streets. In Chicago, there is a lot a politician can get away with, but leaving snow on the streets is definitely not one of them. Bilandic, a sitting Chicago mayor, never made it through the next Democratic primary. He lost to Jane Bryne in an historic upset.
So, Barack Obama, the king of narcissism, the man who rules by executive order and suffers from the delusion of believing what he reads on the TelePrompTer, until he no longer wants to believe it, was having the equivalent of a Michael Bilandic standing on LaSalle Street as the blizzard was coming down moment.
It isn't been a good couple of weeks for ObamaCare. Even while Kathleen Sebelius was testifying before Congress, the 687 million dollar website, built by a Canadian company with a checkered history of efficiency and an executive who was a Michelle O. crony, was crashing. After all, Michelle, too, seemed to have learned something from the political culture of Chicago: what's the point in being in politics if you can't help your friends? And across the continent, three guys who barely looked old enough to shave, sitting in front of computers in their San Francisco start up, unveiled the equivalent of the government website that they had put together in less than a week and without a penny of government money. Of course, none of them attended Princeton with Michelle or contributed -- as far as I know -- money to the Obama's re-election campaign. The site had one glaring defect. Unlike the government site, it clearly showed you the costs of all the policies before you entered the black box and registered.
Then there was the inconvenient truth that while Kathleen Sebelius did not have the data on registration, someone was leaking the non-existent data to the media. So, as of this writing 27,000,000 people have visited the federal ObamaCare website and a full 27,000 of them have been able, or chose, to register. If you add to that the signups in the state exchanges, you can get up to slightly over 100,000 registrants. If you were a NYSE listed stock and came out with data like that you'd watch your stock fall into the delisting category.
And then there was the other inconvenient fact -- that over 5,000,000 people have lost their health insurance because their providers changed their policies and the new ones didn't meet those allegedly better and cheaper (really?) requirements imposed by ObamaCare. Among those who lost was Bill Elliot, a cancer patient whose premium increased 833%. Elliot faces the choice of pushing his family into bankruptcy or paying the fine and dying. Elliot is one of the losers in the ObamaCare debacle. Rather than push his family into bankruptcy, Elliot has chosen death.
Then there was the poignant and heart wrenching editorial in the Wall Street Journal by Edie Littlefield Sundby. She is the Stage-4 gallbladder cancer survivor who has beaten a death sentence. People with her disease have a 2% chance of surviving five years. Edie Littlefield Sundby has survived seven. In part, she accomplished this because she put together the world class treatment of Stanford University with the emergency treatment at the University of California, San Diego.
She too has lost her health insurance and has to choose between Stanford, which kept her alive, and UCSD which rescued her when the disease became intolerable. Her new insurance will not let her have both. Sundby's story has gone viral, not just in America but across the globe.
Facing a public relations disaster the administration blamed her insurance company. And while no one challenged Sundby's claim that she couldn't receive coverage across county lines under Covered California, the state's ObamaCare exchange, Think Progress came up with an opinion piece to show how with their assumptions, she actually could save money under Covered California. Think Progress apparently thinks it knows her financial situation, her deductibles, and co-pays better than she did.
But for those in California who felt threatened about Covered California's lack of portability, there was no solace. For them, even Think Progress ended on a sour note, "Still, Sundby may need to find a different health care provider, since her doctor at UC San Diego is only participating in one plan offered by Anthem Blue Cross in the exchange, but the same policy is not accepted at Stanford. .... If Sundby continues to see the non-participating doctors, she will incur additional out-of-pocket health care costs."
Sundby will now most likely have a one-year extension. Of course, Obama's newest command only gives the insurance companies the right to extend the previous cancelled plans. They do not have to do it, and some will not want to incur the administrative costs to resurrect the cancelled plans.
The best command Obama can give is to cancel ObamaCare. It does not work. The old system worked for 82% of the population. It needed to be fixed, not transformed into a morass of confusion and restriction. After all, when Obama is getting gratuitous advice on commitment from Bill Clinton, maybe he should think that its time not to be caught in the headlights of a Michael Bilandic moment.