We’ve just seen President Obama try to save his political hide in this afternoon’s press conference. After pressure from President Bill Clinton, members of his own party, relentless attacks from Republicans and Congressman Fred Upton’s bill, which hits the House floor tomorrow, the president was left no choice but to retreat.
Thursday afternoon President Obama announced that Americans will now be able to keep their health care plan if they’re happy with it, an about face from last week’s apology for misleading the American public.
The 3.5 million people who received letters canceling their plans will no doubt be relieved, but the president’s announcement leads to a plethora of new issues.
We need a fresh start with health care. Going back to square one is the only way we’re going to make any progress.
It is now unclear if the insurance companies can actually offer the policies that have been canceled. We are unsure what the impact of doing this will be on the federal exchanges. And it is also up for debate what this change will mean for ObamaCare more generally.
All of these unanswered questions mean one thing today: ObamaCare is a failure.
Data released Wednesday showed that only about 100,000 Americans have signed up while the administration has been touting a 500,000-person enrollment goal for October.
Reuters is reporting that ObamaCare has only reached three percent of its enrollment target for 2014 in 12 states. There is, indeed, time to go until the deadline, but for a country of 300+ million people, these figures paint a dismal picture.
“Hold me accountable for the debacle. I am responsible,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told a House committee. And while I appreciate Secretary Sebelius’s willingness to take responsibility, we’re past the point where blame and pointing fingers will do us any good.
We need a fresh start with health care. Going back to square one is the only way we’re going to make any progress. We still have an opportunity, albeit a waning one, to make this right.
The way I see it, the White House needs to do four things:
First, they have to delay the individual mandate for a year as ten Democrat senators, led by Jeanne Shaheen, have requested. With the way the rollout has gone thus far, I don’t see how the White House has any choice.
Second, it’s imperative that they delay the penalty for Americans who have not signed up in 2014. Democrat Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Mark Kirk have introduced new legislation that would push back the $95 penalty for the individual mandate to 2015, which must be considered and passed.
Third, the White House needs to take down the Healthcare.gov website. No more of these on-the-go fixes that don’t work. Just take the thing down and fix it. As frustration continues to mount with glitches and technical problems, the situation only gets worse.
Fourth, the White House and Democrats needs to work with the Republicans on some free market fixes. They should look at allowing across market insurance purchases, tort reform, and some utilization for people to buy private insurance as part of the options offered.
And of course, the president should find a way to keep his word that those Americans who like their plans can keep their plans. It doesn’t matter to me how or why he finally decided that he has to make good on this promise at this point. All that counts is that he does it.
In light of last week’s elections, the speculation about what ObamaCare means for 2014 and 2016 has already begun.
Top Democrats like Mary Landrieu in Louisiana have been eschewing the opportunity to appear with the President – a clear comment on the popularity of Obama and his hallmark bill.
Poll numbers show that Terry McAuliffe lost three to four percentage points from the final poll averages to his ultimate vote share because of his support of the president’s health care bill. And solid majorities in both Virginia and New Jersey are against ObamaCare. According to recent Rasmussen numbers, 55 percent of Americans favor the repeal of ObamaCare.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle know that ObamaCare is going to be the watershed issue in the upcoming elections.
President Obama met with 16 anxious Democratic senators last week to assuage their fears over the ObamaCare site, but also the role the troubled health care law will play in upcoming elections. Only five Democratic senators who are up for reelection did not attend the meeting. And with eight or nine vulnerable seats, the future of the Democratic party is very much tied to the President’s healthcare bill.
Beyond individual races, the president’s troubled bill will most certainly affect Hillary Clinton, her decision to run and her chances. If a Democratic majority in the Senate is wiped out, ObamaCare will be a millstone hung around her neck. It will revive concerns about HillaryCare, a burden she may very well not want to take on.
It follows that the problems with the ObamaCare rollout are not confined to what is going on today, tomorrow or the next day. It will have drastic implications for the future of the Democratic party if this botched program is not reformed immediately.
A fresh start is the only way forward.
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton and is currently working with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of "Fox News Insiders" Sundays on Fox News Channel and Mondays at 10:30 am ET on FoxNews.com Live. He is the author of ten books including,“Hopelessly Divided: The New Crisis in American Politics and What it Means for 2012 and Beyond” (Rowman and Littlefield 2012). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.