Dark times for fans of Obamacare

“The healthcare.gov rollout was just pathetic.  A disaster stuffed in a travesty…wrapped in incompetence.  They call that a Tur-clusterfuckin.”   — Samantha Bee on the Daily Show

I’m an optimistic person, but the Obamacare rollout got me depressed.  I was waiting with baited breath for the exchanges to open and prove the naysayers wrong, but well, instead this disaster has given people on both sides of the aisle pause. Who knew the tech-savvy Obama administration would fail so hard on a web site?

The crappy healthcare.gov  site might have been forgiven if Obama had not been caught in a lie about people being able to keep their insurance.  “If you like your current plan, you can keep it, period,” he repeated.  It’s painful to acknowledge that the administration knew this was coming and lied about it.  But that’s what they did.

We know Obama fibbed about people keeping their plans because many people need to lose their current plans for Obamacare to work. He could have been more honest by saying, “the Affordable Care Act will force dramatic changes. In the end, it will be for the best, but before the dust settles, it will cause tremendous disruption.” Yeah, they would not have gone for that in Topeka.

There is a push to “fix” this…to change the law so that people can keep their current insurance.  As Ezra Klein has noted, this could be a political winner, but would be a policy mistake.

More bullshit will fly in the media because more disruption will come.  Employers will start to follow the money, and will choose the “penalty” option and will continue dropping coverage for employees.  In the long run it will be a good thing for employees to get healthcare for themselves because uncoupling health insurance from employment will help the labor market be more efficient. Reform opponents will claim this a disastrous consequence of Obamacare but it will be another sign of it’s intended effect–to draw people into the individual market for health insurance.

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If the exchanges ever work properly, individuals will be able to comparison shop for health insurance plans.

Right now the headlines are about how few people have signed up so far, but these numbers will only grow.  If the previously anemic individual market can be allowed to develop, the law may still be a big success. Obamacare is a huge experiment that is just getting started. It’s too early for an Obamacare autopsy. Time will tell.  I’m going to put my head down for a year before deciding how it really all went.

Unseen and underreported, there are other positive changes and incentives in Obamacare, e.g. incentives for hospitals to provide better care and coverage for preexisting conditions.  We already take these reforms for granted.

The Obamacare debacle has highlighted one huge accomplishment the GOP has under its belt: by refusing to cooperate with their opponents, extreme right Republicans are successfully making “the government doesn’t work!” a self-fulfilling prophesy.  I remain optimistic about Obamacare, mostly because there is so much room for improvement in our current system.  But watching the partisan sniping over Obamacare has eroded my faith and optimism in our ability to work together as a nation on obvious  national priorities.  Healthcare, education, research…it seems this areas will flounder for years to come as we, through our elected officials, bicker, consumed by nonsensical political ideologies.

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)