An unsettled act
Not so long ago — prior to its Oct. 1 rollout — we were repeatedly told that Obamacare was settled law and Republican efforts to repeal or defund it were little more than partisan showboating.
Certainly, the GOP plan to defund the Affordable Care Act or shut down the federal government was a political debacle. But the idea the health care act is settled law that will not be changed seems to be taking another hit every day.
We don’t believe Obamacare will be repealed. But it seems increasingly likely that some changes will be made. Consider the developments that have occurred just this week:
✔ Growing numbers of Democrats in the U.S. Senate are pushing for an amendment to the law that would allow Americans to keep existing insurance plans, at least for another year. This includes the likes of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a reliable supporter of President Barack Obama, who told The Washington Post she was backing a change because she has received more than 30,000 communications from her constituents upset about the cancellations of their existing policies.
✔ Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday said Obama should “honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep” their existing insurance plans, even if it means changing the law.
A number of observers believe Clinton’s comments are a way for his wife, Hillary, to begin to distance herself from the problems of Obamacare as she prepares for a 2016 presidential bid. Even so, such a strong statement from a former president of the same party as Obama carries a good deal of weight.
✔ Another bill in the House to allow insurance companies to continue offering policies like those already in existence — which the White House vehemently opposes — already has more than 160 cosponsors, including a number of Democrats. It will need 218 votes to pass in the House.
✔ The website HealthCare.gov, which is supposed to allow people to sign up for new insurance policies under Obamacare, continues to be plagued with problems. On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that it’s unlikely all of the website’s problems will be repaired by the end of this month, as Obama pledged last month. If it isn’t fully operational by Nov. 30, there will be calls from members of both parties to extend the date when the individual mandate is supposed to take effect.
✔ Even states that have their own health exchanges and aren’t tied to HealthCare.gov, such as Colorado, are facing difficulties. For example, officials with Connect for Health Colorado this week were pushing Medicaid authorities for a faster turnaround time to determine whether insurance applicants qualify for Medicaid. If the process isn’t speeded up, they say, many people will miss the Dec. 15 deadline to sign up for insurance that can take effect Jan. 1.
Others argue the Colorado process, which requires the Medicaid status to be determined before an application can move forward, is a mistake that must be corrected.
All of these items suggest that changes are coming, and that Obamacare is far from settled law.