Published July 18, 2013
“The same arguments against change, the same fear and misinformation that opponents used then are the same ones opponents are spreading now. 'This won’t work,' 'Slow down,' 'Let’s wait,' they say.”
-- Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius speaking at the NAACP convention comparing President Obama’s 2010 health law to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
President Obama today will try to muster his shrinking second-term clout to make the case for his troubled heath law, arguing that despite forecasts of lost coverage, lost jobs and higher premiums, his signature legislation will (eventually) help control health costs.
Democrats are glomming on to the first bit of good news in a long time about Obama’s health law – a forecast of sharply dropping premiums for individual health insurance in New York – like prospectors who found a golden nugget in a played-out gulch.
Obama today will give a speech in which he highlights this shiny object as well as the limits on insurance company profits under his law. With doubts piling up about Obamacare implementation – the new entitlement program debuts in 75 days – the president is leading a push to reassure taxpayers footing the bill and prospective beneficiaries that everything is cool.
The reason New York premiums are forecast to drop under Obamacare is that the state has required insurance companies to offer coverage to all applicants since 1993. This mandatory coverage has made New York’s insurance rates the highest in the nation, meaning that by adding the federal requirement that all humans not covered by a government program purchase insurance, the risk pool will expand and rates will drop.
Ohio’s rates will be more typical of those experienced by consumers in the rest of the nation: Insurance regulators in Columbus are forecasting an 88 percent individual rate hike next year as those previously refused insurance or unable to afford it come into the system.
While Obama will do something today to bolster the case for his law and cue up a slew of “hey, look, it’s not a complete disaster” stories in the establishment press, the president’s dozens and dozens of previous speeches touting his law have done little to build public confidence or support. It is unlikely that this one will be much different.
Witness the 35 House Democrats who bucked Obama’s veto threat and voted Wednesday to make legal his administration’s decision to delay mandatory health insurance coverage at large employers by one year. Twenty-two House Democrats flouted Obama’s sterner warning against delaying mandatory coverage rules for individuals for a year.
The woman in charge of implementing the law, Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, compared those seeking to block or delay Obamacare to the opponents of civil rights protections for black Americans on Tuesday. On Wednesday, 17 percent of the Democratic House conference votes to do just that. One gets the sense that the administration isn’t quite getting the message through.
The law is shaping up to be a loser for the president’s party next year. The only question is how much.
The president’s speech today will elicit a round of stories from credulous reporters highlighting the parts of the law that might yet work and provide new talking points for talking heads, this Strangelovian approach won’t change the contours for Democrats facing voters next year.
Despite the all-out push for enrollment in the new program, the government may not be able to deliver. In testimony on Wednesday, Assistant Treasury Inspector General Alan Duncan warned that insufficient internal testing of the system could mean “significant delays and errors in accepting and processing [Affordable Care Act] applications for health insurance coverage.”
That’s inspector generalese for, “Ahh! Run for your lives!”
The president doesn’t have much choice but to plump for his legacy law, but given his attrited status and the problems ahead for the law, the best Obama can probably muster for those expressing doubt and concern is not a reassurance but rather a riff on the famous rejoinder from Judge Elihu Smails: “You’ll get nothing, and like it.”
And Now, A Word From Charles
“What [unions] are seeing is workers are looking at the exchanges and seeing ‘I can drop out of the employer plan, I get a huge subsidy, I come out ahead, and I don't have to be a member of the union.’ So this is a disaster for the unions, and that's why you have this letter of desperation and disappointment.”
-- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on FoxNews.com. Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET at http:live.foxnews.com.