The seriousness of the problem President Barack Obama and the Democrats now have on Obamacare cannot be understated or spun away. On several fronts, the optics are almost as hideous as the quality of the program’s launch.
Optic One: a website that’s as frustrating as the kind of website many Americans will go to and vow to never visit again, a symbol of incompetence and/or poor planning. Optic two: continuing stories (even if they are later to be found to not include all the details) about people who are losing their insurance due to Obamacare, each one reminding voters of Obama’s promises during the campaign and after he came to office about not losing doctors and insurance.
The latest comes from CBS News. And if the administration doesn’t get its act together soon, Obamacare will enter into the state the Vietnam War did during the 1960s where government pronuncements about it will be distrusted or discounted by a politically-potent portion of the American electorate. This story won’t help:
The Colorado Division of Insurance says 250,000 people in Colorado alone have lost their policies in the last few months.
Cathy Wagner says she isn’t political and has never written a lawmaker, much less the president, but with Obamacare she felt compelled.
“I really just wanted him to know … I was so hopeful that this plan was going to move us forward, but in fact I think it’s moving us backward,” Wagner said.
Wagner and her husband retired early. She was a nurse for 35 years and championed Obamacare, until she received a letter from her insurance company saying it was canceling her policy.
“I was really shocked … all of my hopes were sort of dashed,” Wagner said. “’Oh my gosh President Obama, this is not what we hoped for, it’s not what we were told.’ “
She was shocked further to learn that for the same coverage she would pay 35 percent more and have a higher deductible.
“Our premium for next year is going up to over $1,000 a month for two of us and we’re two fairly healthy individuals,” Wagner said.
Like other stories on this, it quotes a Democrat in Congress as saying the Wagners are the exception not the rule. Fair enough. But the problem is a)the optics are bad b)it gives ammunition to those (usually well of people) who oppose any kind of help for Americans who don’t have health care c) it reeks of political incompetence or worse that Americans were not prepared by the administration to be ready for cases such as this.
And here’s the real danger for Obama and the administration:
For the first time she’s considering going without health insurance.
“The whole plan was to get everyone enrolled so there’s a larger risk pool and our costs go down,” she said. “Wow, not at all what we’re seeing.”
The media will (rightfully) cover cases of people who may have NO health care now because they lose their health care.
And a word about the media:
While on an extensive drive yesterday, I surfed progressive talk, MSNBC shows, and other newscasts. It’s increasingly being suggested that the media is at fault for reporting both the glitches and how what is happening now contrasts with Obama’s promises on what the plan would mean and how it would function to offer better and in many cases cheaper insurance and not mean people would risk losing their doctors or insurance. It’s the old attack the messenger approach. But it doesn’t negate (1)poor preparation to launch (2) a lousy and not fully disclosed sales act of what the law would mean (3) the need now for nothing but competence to be shown and total disclosure to prevail in the administration’s work on health care.
It still could be considered a major achievement and add greatly to American life — if Obama gets the plan up and running and continues to work on not just defending Obamacare but completely explaining its impact and continuing to express regrets about his earlier sales pitch.
And if it fails?
Obama will go down in history as a symbol of the ultimate irony: a Democrat who discredited health care reform.
Rush Limbaugh, Republicans in Congress and conservative websites can only do so much. For it to fail Obama will have to work at it — or continue to work poorly at it.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.