The unfortunate confluence of the onset of Obamacare and the government shutdown trying to defund it had the effective of shifting, for a few days at least, the country's attention off the partial takeover by the federal government of about one-seventh of the economy as measured by GDP.
Events have caused everyone to catch up – and quickly. The combination of hundreds of thousands of Americans receiving letters notifying them that they health care they had and might even have liked was cancelled combined with the rollout of the Obamacare website has even gotten the attention of the major media. What was supposed to be a flawless transition was anything but.
Things have gotten so bad that some among the six Democrats in the U.S. Senate deemed most vulnerable in the next election – and who stood with Harry Reid and Barack Obama against defunding the new program on the continuing resolution keeping the government open – are now talking delay.
This should be the time for Obamacare opponents to proclaim a victory, or to at least get away with saying "we told you so." But too many of them are still re-fighting the recently lost defund vs. delay battle and trying to win the argument.
There are a couple of points that someone should make about the whole business, the first being that the folks who argued for delay were probably right. Obamacare is collapsing of its own weight, as some people have been predicting for some time. There was no need to rush headlong at it and try to pull it down when it was getting ready to topple on its own. Nothing confirms this more than the fact that even some Democrats are now talking about the need for additional delays.
It is also important to remember that the failure of the websites to operate properly is not the first time Obamacare has had a problem, but is in fact the latest in a long line of things associated with the new law that did not work correctly and were not ready on time. This is not an issue of implementation so much as it is one of imagination. No one among the supporters of Obamacare ever imagined that it could be so bad, while its opponents knew it was all along.
The problems with the website, which represent the public's first real interface with the new law, are only on the surface. Like we are now hearing from technology and telecommunications firms about the websites, the program itself is unsalvageable. It's too big, tries to do too much, and is so riddled with carves outs, exemptions, special deals and bureaucrats that the world's greatest bloodhound couldn't sniff out the way forward.
Fixing the websites which, given time, may be possible, will not repair the underlying lack of structural integrity in the programs framework. Focusing on the websites alone is sort of like talking about how the elevators in a new office tower don't work correctly – they stop on the wrong floors, they go "up" when they are supposed to go "down," both doors don't open at the same time – when the entire edifice is slowly sinking into the ground because the foundation is rotten.
It's true, as my bloleauge Robert Schlesinger has pointed out here on the pages of Thomas Jefferson Street, that Obamacare is more popular than the politicians that want to repeal it. That is only because the American people know more about Congress than they do the new health care law – which famously had to be passed before people could know what was in it. Democrats and Republicans have both become so enmeshed in the politics of the whole thing that they have stopped looking hard enough at the policy, which was fatally flawed to begin with.
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is oft-quoted these days for having said, "First you win the argument; then you win the election." The Obamacare opponents among the GOP thought they had won the argument and so stopped making it. They need to start again, because the facts are on their side.
The American people will want this law repealed the worse it gets. Right now, however, not enough people are educating them to the fact that it is not just a matter of fixing the websites, which would be like slapping a user-friendly interface on the gates of hell. The shortage of doctors, the inevitable waiting periods, the predictable rationing, the premium increases, the inability to keep health plans and providers you have and like – all these issues need to be relitigated and now is the time to do it, when most every American is paying attention and they are all skeptical that the program will ever work because their first real interaction with it was such a bad experience.