Promise that propelled Obamacare proved false by recent actions
Earlier this week in Washington, Sen. Ted Cruz stayed up all night in a doomed-from-the-start-but-still-worth-the-while push to link defunding of the so-called Affordable Care Act to the passage of legislation that would fund the government.
As I noted last week, it has been more than a little unnerving to watch Republicans pile on Cruz. Rather than use the Obamacare fight as leverage to drive other spending cuts, policy changes or incremental fixes to Obamacare itself, a lot of real smart guys in my political party decided to undercut Cruz at every turn.
Cruz’s inability to play nice in the Washington sandbox no doubt fueled a good part of this. But, my heavens, can we not at least agree to agree as a political party that the repeal of Obamacare is worth the fight?
But all of that is transient. In about three eye-blinks — like the fiscal cliff and all of the debt-ceiling votes that have occurred in the last few years — the Cruz shutdown-showdown will soon be a thing for The Washington Post archives.
The more enduring development in the Obamacare saga in the last week, also inescapable in the news this week, has been what an utter disaster the implementation of the Affordable Care Act has become.
All across the country, real people have been getting letters saying that their health insurance policies have been canceled. Like thousands of Coloradans (Or is it tens of thousands? Soon we will know.), Congressman Cory Gardner got one of these notices.
“Last month, my wife, Jaime, and I received notice that our health care plan would be discontinued Dec. 31. To comply with the myriad new regulations, requirements and mandates of the president’s health care law, my family must find a new health care plan.”
When he was elected to Congress, Gardner opted-out of Congress’ sweetheart health-insurance package, choosing instead to shop for health insurance on the private market like the rest of us poor schleps who aren’t duly elected officials. And like so many other real people in the real world, with the black cloud of Obamacare rolling in, the Eastern Plains congressman got word from his health insurance carrier: You’re fired.
Gardner pounced via Twitter: “Pres. said if u like ur healthcare u can keep it. I opted out of federal health care. My family’s individual plan has been cancelled.”
Remember that promise?
In a pivotal moment in the final stages of the melee to force Obamacare through Congress, at a time when Democrats were beginning to show signs of splintering away from the president and his health care plan, the president traveled the country to deliver a simple message.
“If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” he pledged. “If you like your current health insurance plan you can keep it.”
It was pervasive. Democrats everywhere repeated it.
This wasn’t just an idle talking point, either. Shoring up this line of argument was, at the time, central to the advance of Obamacare. As the Affordable Care Act underwent greater scrutiny, what became clear was that the push to expand coverage to the uninsured through government-controlled mechanisms would almost certainly gum up or ruin the health insurance of the millions of Americans perfectly content with the plan they already had.
Those familiar with the functionalities of European-style socialized medicine predicted this. Numerous studies echoed the same.
President Obama knew he had to convey this was not a zero-sum game — that his Affordable Care Act would expand the ranks of the insured, and hold the already-insured harmless. And so the president, in the face of all evidence and experience to the contrary, made his now infamous pledge: “If you like your current health insurance plan you can keep it.”
Like the first George Bush’s “read my lips,” Bill Clinton’s finger wagging denial and George W. Bush’s “mission accomplished,” these are words that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is going to eat. So, too, will the ranks of Obama-following Democratic politicians who mindlessly parroted the pledge.
No wonder Obama delayed implementation of the act until after the his re-election. His pivotal promise was destined to be proved untrue the moment his the Affordable Care Act became law. As a headline in the Weekly Standard blared this week: “Obama lied, and my health plan died.”
Cruz’s filibuster will soon enough be forgotten. This fact won’t.
Josh Penry is a former minority member of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.