Power Play

ObamaCare delays show that the law isn’t worth the pain

As vulnerable Democrats press for another unilateral delay of a key provision of ObamaCare, surely many in the party have come to wonder if the law is really worth all of this trouble. If it’s not worth enacting, is it really worth losing the Senate over?

But that’s exactly what’s happening as President Obama tries to placate panicking Senate Democrats by carving up his own law. The likely result is less ObamaCare and less Democratic Senators.

Obama has said that in five years or so, Americans will look on the law with appreciation. But Obama’s plan for getting there involves not implementing several of its crucial components. How is that supposed to work? As Americans reach broad agreement that the law is worse than having done nothing at all, Obama seems intent on proving them right by slowing the transition to the promised benefits of a centrally planned heath care sector.

But Democrats have been flinching from the start.

Remember: The law was written so the hard stuff didn’t come down until after four years had passed so that Obama could win a second term and see it implemented. It wouldn’t do to get the behemoth passed, lose the presidency over it and have some Republican come in and wipe it all away.

The strategy sounded smart to supporters, especially since Obama’s fellow Democrats in Congress were themselves facing voters less than eight months after final passage. The “Gilligan’s Island”-like precision with which they crafted the law and the corporatist product that resulted did not leave Dems feeling very brave. Congressional Democrats liked the idea of giving away health insurance, but having built the vehicle for doing so, they knew better than to take the first test drive.

But hey, they’d have a couple more elections while the techno-wizards in Obamaland worked out the kinks and then – blam-o – roll out that sweet, sweet ObamaCare goodness to a grateful electorate. No problem.

Not only was the ObamaCare taint more damaging in 2010 than Democrats expected, it turned out that the administration was incompetent at enacting the law. Political miscalculation and inept governance combined to put a permanent stink on ObamaCare. A Republican Party that couldn’t do much else was at least capable of reminding voters that none of its members had voted for the thing.

The least the president could do for his party (and his chance not to spend the final two years of his term in a defensive crouch) was to use his pen and his phone to delay again the parts of the law that hurt the most.

The extralegal changes Obama has made since he started carving in 2012 – particularly delaying penalties and regulations – may have violated the letter of the law, but have certainly bowed to part of its original intent: delay what voters don’t like until after the next election.

Obama recently told Charles Barkley that by 2019, the name ObamaCare will lose its embarrassing connotation and become a point of pride. But we’re now in our third electoral cycle since the law was passed, and it’s still apparently too soon to let Americans really get a full dose. Since ObamaCare can apparently only be enacted in the first half of odd numbered years, this may take awhile.

The latest delay on behalf of vulnerable Democrats is a plan to allow people to keep “substandard” insurance policies for at least another year.

Remember those “bad apple” policies that Obama and his supporters were denouncing last fall as millions of Americans found out their plans had been cancelled under ObamaCare? The Hill reported and Fox News has confirmed that the White House is preparing another executive action, this time to let you eat those bad apples.

For a few days after it was revealed that there was never any intention of honoring the president’s “if you like it pledge” Democrats attempted a version of the health food switcheroo – “I bet you couldn’t even tell that was tofu! And it’s so good for you!’ But partly because the dispossessed policyholders couldn’t get on the ObamaCare Web site to get new plans, the grim smiles of those promising the victims would be “transitioned” started to drop. 

Democrats know that canceling those policies is necessary for the law to work, since consumers must be herded into more expensive plans in order to finance otherwise unsustainable new customers. Just as there’s (theoretically still) a mandate to buy insurance in order to shove people into the risk pool, there are lots more insurance regulations to make sure that the insured are paying in enough to even things out. Democrats were right to say that it was an important part of the law and needed to be imposed to go forward. But they folded in the face of massive outrage over “the lie of the year.”

Whatever executive order plops out on extending these once-reviled plans may not end up helping many of the individuals affected, but the hope is that it will give those Democrats barely clinging to the door jambs of the Senate a new talking point. “That’s been delayed,” Sen. Kay Hagan can say when next she is being chased through a parking lot by reporters. “We got results,” Sen. Mark Pryor can offer as he declines to say whether he would vote for the law again if he had the chance.

But we know the answer. Of course ObamaCare couldn’t get 51 votes in the Senate today. And given what the president has done to save his own political pelt and hold onto a Senate majority, it wouldn’t just be red state Democrats like Pryor who would vote no.

ObamaCare has turned out to be not worth the trouble for the Democratic Party, especially given that the parts they still like, could have easily passed with bipartisan support. The law isn’t worth it and Obama underscores that fact every time he slices off a chunk with his pen.

Giving up what might be as many as a dozen Senate seats in the name of a law that can’t be enforced seems more than a little silly. But if that sounds silly, how about this: inflicting generational damage to your party in the name of universal health coverage but doing it through a program that would, by even generous forecasts, still leave more than 30 million Americans uninsured after a decade.


Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.