In our opinion: Making the Affordable Care Act work

Published: Thursday, Aug. 22 2013 12:35 p.m. MDT

There's no question that the ACA is problematic on many levels, which has prompted one of the law's fiercest advocates, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to predict that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is a "train wreck" waiting to happen. Some ideologues have gone so far as to welcome such a calamity, in the hopes that it will redound to their benefit at the ballot box as the American people recoil against the Obama administration in the wake of a full-fledged disaster.

Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

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The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, has faced united opposition from Utah's congressional delegation, and the state's elected representatives have worked tirelessly to repeal this well-intended but crucially flawed legislation. Last year, many were hopeful that the Supreme Court would strike down the law in whole or in part. When the High Court upheld the law, many in Congress redoubled their efforts to undo Obamacare before it fully goes in to effect. Utah Sen. Mike Lee is leading the charge to defund the ACA, even at the risk of a government shutdown.

There's no question that the ACA is problematic on many levels, which has prompted one of the law's fiercest advocates, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., to predict that the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is a "train wreck" waiting to happen. Some ideologues have gone so far as to welcome such a calamity, in the hopes that it will redound to their benefit at the ballot box as the American people recoil against the Obama administration in the wake of a full-fledged disaster.

Former Utah governor and Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt doesn't share that cynical partisan viewpoint.

"I opposed the Affordable Care Act, and I still believe that big changes to the law are necessary. But I'm not hoping for a wreck," Leavitt wrote in a recent opinion piece for the Washington Post. "That outcome would hurt ordinary people, not just politicians."

Leavitt is right.

Make no mistake — Obamacare is something of a mess, and polls show that it's wildly unpopular. But it's also the law of the land, and it is likely to remain so. Current efforts to repeal it may be ideologically satisfying to the president's opponents, but they have absolutely no chance of succeeding in practical terms. In contrast, Secretary Leavitt offers several common-sense suggestions as to how to improve a bad situation by modeling implementation of the ACA after the Bush administration's successful rollout of Medicare Part D. Leavitt's prescriptions, while they don't sound exciting in campaign speeches, represent the pragmatic approach the nation needs to take in order to steer clear of catastrophe as the ACA comes online.

Some may see this as an unacceptable accommodation, but reality now demands compromise, not confrontation. Even opponents of the ACA have a duty to do everything necessary to minimize the damage that this law might produce, rather than continuing to try to drive it off the rails.

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