Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Are Republicans Right About the Affordable Care Act?

The Affordable Care Act was ushered in with hyperbolic partisan fanfare, along with a bold promise from President Obama than anyone currently holding insurance would be able to keep their coverage and doctors, and that health care premiums would decrease not increase. But as we now know from the past several weeks, the rollout of ACA has been nothing short of a disaster. This includes the botched launch of the HealthCare.gov website; the fact that millions of people are receiving cancellation notices from their insurance companies; that premiums are, in many cases, increasing appreciably; that hardly anyone has been able to sign up for coverage, including, and especially, the 7-million young people needed to make guaranteed coverage work; to the likelihood that the deadlines for the individual mandate will probably need to be extended.

To say ACA’s problems have been an embarrassment for Obama is a colossal understatement. This is his signature law. He fought like an animal to have it legislated, adjudicated by the Supreme Court and affirmed in the 2012 presidential election against his opponent, Mitt Romney, who vociferously ran on its repeal. He then stood firm in the government shutdown showdown, sending House Republicans crawling back to their caucus room with their tails between their legs, their spirits broken and capitulating like the French army in WWII.

Obama now finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to deftly balance an appreciation for, and an acceptance of, his health care reform’s flaws while maintaining an upbeat, optimistic and steadfast defense of its ultimate merits and value. The president now promises a full website fix by November 30, a deadline which, even if met, would still present serious challenges in meeting enrollment deadlines.

Republicans have been demanding that heads roll, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius’s most notably on the chopping block. Putting aside partisan loyalties and/or bitterness, do they actually have a point here? Are they right about ACA after all? With new reports this week claiming that the administration knew years in advance that millions would be losing their coverage, is it time for Sebelius, and perhaps others, to finally go? And are we headed for another bloody Benghazi-like “What-did-he-know-and-when-did-he-know-it” witch hunt? Is the GOP justified in pursuing an intensified investigation into the program’s and the administration’s failures?

Perhaps it’s time for Obama to put his tail between his legs, admit monumental tactical and process failure, and attempt to start over with the full cooperation of both House and Senate Republicans. To be sure, ACA is not going away. It will become as bedrock an entitlement program as Social Security, Medicare and the Prescription Drug Plan. But at this point, and with each passing day, it’s becoming abundantly clear that it needs an overhaul, and a bi-partisan one at that, if it’s ever going to work successfully.

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