October 22 2013

Is It Time to Plan for Real Reform?

Charlotte Hays

Half in jest I suggested that conservatives stop asking for HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ head because of the gross incompetence of the ObamaCare rollout.

Sebelius is now the poster girl for government overreach. Don’t we want to keep her front and center? She has gone from being a liberal icon to being a figure of fun. It was perhaps fitting that she found time for Comedy Central and is having a devil of a time working Congress into her busy schedule.

In the same half-in-jest vein, I want to urge Senator Marco Rubio to cease and desist in pushing his bill to delay the individual mandate. Why not allow the disaster to continue to unfold and thus force the White House to admit defeat and ask for a delay? Indeed, there is a report that this may be in the offing.

Ms. Sebelius, of course, richly deserves to be fired, and Senator Rubio is right to worry about citizens who are required by law to buy health insurance or pay a fine but can’t get on healthcare.gov. to make a purchase. Still, it’s tempting to let the administration keep digging.       

The administration’s latest tactic appears to be (as expressed just now by a Fox talking head) to “draw a line separating” itself from the disastrous website roll out. The idea is to say, as the president did yesterday, that the “product” (ObamaCare) is separate from the website. This won’t fly: unless the website can be made to work, ObamaCare is an imaginary product behind a very real wall.

Liberals who support ObamaCare are admitting that the supposedly most tech-savvy administration in history has produced a techie nightmare. I can’t resist quoting this New York Observer story that recounts the travails of a liberal writer who attempted to signup:

I’ve tried five times, by logging into the website and by talking to representatives. Each time I sign up, I’m stymied by a new absurdity. At one point, I was told that everyone but my wife was eligible for coverage, though she’s an American citizen. Another time, I was told that my immigration papers couldn’t be verified. Immigration? I was born in New York. Do New Yorkers need green cards now? Another time, my six-year-old somehow became the primary applicant. At least she earns nothing, so maybe that will lower my costs.

“Something’s not right,” the representative told me when the computer listed my daughter, Naomi, as the responsible applicant, before giving up and telling me to try again later. On top of that, I’ve had to enter my information anew each time I’ve applied (though supposedly my information is saved from session to session), in each case wasting an hour or more of my time. And the representatives I’ve spoken with seem to have been trained by Elmer Fudd or Mr. Magoo. They can’t even read their prepared scripts, don’t know the difference between optional information and required information, and seem hopelessly baffled by the system.

The writer, Robin Hemley, who has won three Pushcart Prizes and a Guggenheim Fellowship, admits that friends had even worse experiences. One wrote, “Missouri claims I do not exist.” Another wrote, “I’m apparently not a U.S. citizen and my toddler makes $5,000 a month, but otherwise….”

Hemley will wait a month before trying again:

In the meantime, perhaps the administration should just farm out the website to people who can assuredly deliver, such as ChristianMingle.org or EHarmony.com. Anything to prevent Ted Cruz from having the last laugh.

It's beginning to appear that the government—not the GOP—may ultimately beg for and receive a delay.

Added to this, the unpopular parts of ObamaCare, the ones that were held back until after the 2014 election cycle, are coming online—well, maybe not online, give the administration’s ineptitude, but are now being phased into the equation. Victor Davis Hanson predicts that website problems will pale in comparison to the unpopularity of rising premiums, rising deductibles, and saddling young people with the cost of keeping ObamaCare solvent.

It is not too early for Republicans to begin to plan for genuine reform of the health system. There will be those who viewed ObamaCare as merely a way to get to a single-payer system. A failure of ObamaCare, however, will not, it appears, redound to the credit of their project.

Mona Charen writes:

Some on the right, foreseeing the failure of Obamacare, have argued that it was all part of a diabolical plan by the Democrats to achieve what they’ve always really wanted — single-payer.

It’s true that single-payer is their goal, but after witnessing the debacle of Obamacare, will voters be willing to trust the Democrats when they say, “And now for another huge new entitlement program. Motto: This time, it won’t crash”?

Rather than engaging in purification rituals among themselves, Republicans’ most crucial job in the coming months is to present a coherent alternative to Obamacare — one that deals with the problem of preexisting conditions, increases competition, encourages personal responsibility (by, for example, permitting lower premiums for those with healthy habits), and cuts through the Gordian knot of health-care regulation.

Let’s adapt Rahm Emanuel and not allow the Obamacare crisis to go to waste.

 

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