Nancy Pelosi was the speaker of the House in March 2010, when Democrats achieved a long-sought goal of overhauling our health-care system and moving us closer to universal coverage.
One has to wonder today whether the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – bears even a passing resemblance to the massive bill President Barack Obama signed into law, to the extent any Democrat actually read those thousands of pages.
Since early 2013, the Obama administration has unilaterally issued change after delay after change to his signature domestic achievement. The bill was intended to substantively remake the U.S. health-care system; have dozens of adjustments remade the law as dramatically?
Surely this is not what Pelosi meant when she famously (or infamously) said, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”
What’s clear is that this dizzying series of delays and changes has wrought confusion, with its most harrowing deadline dead ahead. On March 31, the tax penalty for failing to purchase health insurance – the individual mandate – kicks in. Yet insurance companies and potential new customers are befuddled by rapid shifts in what the law now demands.
The relentless push-back of other deadlines to points conveniently beyond one election or another leads to justified suspicion that politics have long since overridden policy. As it has from the start, Obamacare polls as an albatross to Democrats.
The law’s horrific rollout, stunningly obvious last fall, could well cause Democrats to lose their Senate majority – in the same way passing the law cost Pelosi the House majority and her speakership in November 2010.
And while few would profess to separate health care from its politics, few pretend anymore that Obamacare’s executive changes are anything other than political cover for Democrats.
The most recent delays were the most blatant, as the administration pushed back for two years the deadline to buy policies that comport with beefed-up Obamacare requirements. So you can keep your old, substandard plan until the 2016 elections are behind us.
For the record, we appreciate many goals of Obamacare but opposed it overall because of concerns about its funding. Still, like many Americans, we recognize the good that could come from the law and have urged patience and cooperation.
If that were the goal, congressional Republicans would drop their all-or-nothing approach, which translates to repeal-replace-or-die-trying. Democrats could stop making believe all is well and refusing to open the door to fix-it negotiations, lest the GOP’s most extreme set the place on fire.
Must it be this way? Unfortunately, in our political system, one party is always trying to battle its way out of the minority, while the other is determined to hold power. This tension, as you may have noticed, often fails to yield the most forward-looking outcomes for the governed.
One day, we must hope, the governed will hold both sides’ zero-sum gamers responsible.