It's one thing for the American people to have "buyer's remorse" over Obamacare, but when even the seller has it, in this case the Obama White House, it may be time to scarp the whole thing and go back to square one. The new law isn't even close to living up to the promises the president made. Instead, as retiring Montana Democrat Max Baucus forewarned just months ago, the new law's implementation is becoming a "train wreck."
It's not that the president is backing down on his intentions; it's just that he's backing off. Despite what the new law requires, the administration admitted just days ago – in a blog post of all places – that things are not going as planned and that the imposition of the employer mandate, which is about as popular as a murder of crows at a popcorn festival, will be delayed until 2015.
The president seems to think that he can, simply by waving a magic wand or some other act of political prestidigitation, delay what a federal statute he himself pushed for and signed into law requires him to do. This is at least constitutionally questionable, if not a downright abuse of executive power.
For the moment, the president is being shielded from otherwise justifiable criticism of his actions by his fawning allies in the public arena because they like the new healthcare law. Image how aghast these same people would be, and the uproar it would cause, if a conservative president took the same step with a piece of liberal legislation. It would inaugurate a full-blown constitutional crisis complete with gavel-to-gavel coverage of the congressional hearings such a move would necessitate.
The Republicans have responded to the president's move strategically, not with angry denunciations, but with delicious irony. As the Associated Press reported Tuesday, "House Speaker John Boehner says President Barack Obama should grant individuals a reprieve from his health care law's coverage requirement – just like the White House did last week for larger employers." In a letter to the president, Boehner, the Ohio Republican, and other GOP leaders said "we also believe American families need the same relief."
The bigger problem is that the waiver of the employer mandate is not the first the Obama administration has authorized in order to keep the new law from falling apart at the seams. On Monday, the Heritage Foundation released a list of "a dozen more Obamacare implementation failures":
1. The CLASS Act: ABANDONED, THEN REPEALED
One Democrat famously called this new long-term care entitlement "a Ponzi scheme of the first order, the kind of thing that Bernie Madoff would have been proud of"–and so it proved. In the fall of 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) admitted CLASS could not be implemented in a fiscally sound manner–and Congress eventually repealed the program outright.
2. Exchanges: MISSED DEADLINES
Most states resisted Obamacare's call to create insurance exchanges, choosing to let Washington create a federally run exchange instead. However, a Government Accountability Office report released last month noted that "critical" activities to create a federal exchange have not been completed, and the missed deadlines "suggest a potential for challenges going forward."
3. HHS mandate: DELAYED; UNDER LEGAL CHALLENGE
Last year, the Administration announced a partial delay for Obamacare's anti-conscience mandate. However, many employers have filed legal actions against the mandate, which forces them to fund products they find morally objectionable or pay massive fines.
4. Small business plan choice: DELAYED
The Administration announced in April that workers will not be able to choose plans from different health insurers in the small business exchanges next year – a delay that liberal blogger Joe Klein called "a really bad sign" of "Obamacare incompetence."
5. Child-only plans: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
A drafting error in Obamacare has actually led to less access to care for children with pre-existing conditions. A 2011 report found that in 17 states, insurers are no longer selling child-only health insurance plans, because they fear that individuals will apply for coverage only after being diagnosed with a costly illness.
6. Basic health plan: DELAYED
This government-run plan for states, created as part of Obamacare, has also been delayed, prompting one Democrat to criticize the Administration for failing to "live up" to the law and implement it as written.
7. High-risk pools: UNDERPERFORMING; FUNDING LOW
This program for individuals with pre-existing conditions faced higher costs and lower enrollment than advertised. Though it was originally projected to cover up to 700,000 individuals, only about 110,000 have enrolled–yet the Administration had to halt new enrollment and take other radical measures to prevent the $5 billion program from running out of money.
8. Early retiree reinsurance: BROKE
The $5 billion in funding for this program was intended to last until 2014–but the program's money ran out in 2011, two years ahead of schedule.
9. Waivers: UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES
After the law passed, HHS discovered that some of its new mandates would raise costs so much that employers would drop coverage rather than face skyrocketing premiums. Instead, the Administration announced a series of temporary waivers–and more than half the recipients of those waivers were members of union health insurance plans.
10. Co-ops: DEFUNDED
Congress blocked additional funding to this Obamacare program in January, and with good reason: In one case, a new health insurance co-op was called "fatally flawed" by Vermont's state insurance commissioner.
11. "Employee free choice": REPEALED
This provision, which would have allowed certain workers to use contributions from their employers to buy exchange health plans, was repealed in April 2011, as businesses considered it too complex and unworkable.
12. Medicaid expansion: REJECTED BY MANY STATES
Last year, the Supreme Court made Obamacare's Medicaid expansion optional for states, ruling that Obamacare as written engaged in "economic dragooning" that puts "a gun to the head of states." Many states are resisting Obamacare's call to expand Medicaid, knowing that expansion will saddle them with additional, unsustainable costs.
The problem with Obamacare is not any of these things by themselves or all of them together. It's, as my grandmother on my mother's side might have said, "the whole magilla." The difficulties involved in implementing the new law cannot be blamed on the continued opposition to it; the whole thing is too unwieldy, too cumbersome and too nonsensical to ever really work. It needs to be scrapped.
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