Outcry over Obamacare's rollout has been so significant and widespread that the temporary diversion in public opinion created by the government shutdown has completely disappeared. Calling the inability of the website to function properly a "glitch" and promising to fix it, the president pleads for patience, saying that "The law is more than just a website."
Indeed it is. It has the look of "bait and switch" about it.
Both before and after it passed, President Obama very specifically and repeatedly promised people who had coverage that they liked that they would be able to keep it. In 2009, at the beginning of his presidency, he said, "No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people. If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."
In 2012, throughout his campaign, he kept beating the same drum: "If you're one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance. This law will only make it more secure and more affordable."
The website undoubtedly will be fixed; however long it may take, the "plumbing" of the structure will finally work. What will not be fixed, unless there is legislation, is the fact that the president's repeated promise to millions of Americans will not be kept. Projections of how many will see their existing plans shut down is now up to 17 million, with millions more seeing very significant increases in the amount they will have to pay for insurance. So much for "more secure and more affordable."
This is clearly not "a glitch," something that caught people by surprise. Officials in the Obama administration knew all along that a large number of people would lose their current plans. The president is now almost denying that he ever said they wouldn't. Consider his recent explanation; what he really meant was that you could keep "health insurance that works." The administration's definition of "what works" is whatever is consistent with Obamacare. To those who are complaining about that, he said, "If you're getting one of these letters, just shop around in the new marketplace. That's what it's there for. ... You're going to get a better deal."
That's a far cry from the assurances he gave before the rollout began, which is why the sense of outrage is building.
President Obama loves to say that Obamacare is really nothing more than Romneycare and that Republican complaints about it are based entirely on partisanship. He forgets that the writing of the Massachusetts law was a bipartisan exercise, a Republican governor working with a Democratic legislature. Everyone knew in advance what was in it and how it would work. It had some glitches but no real surprises. Its bipartisan heritage is one of the reasons why it now enjoys an approval rating over 80 percent.
In Washington, there were many Republicans willing to work with the Obama administration in an effort to get the same kind of result for the nation. I know because I was one of them. However, we were soon told that our inputs and insights were not welcome and Obamacare, with all of its glitches and surprises, emerged as an entirely Democratic product. It's not selling very well.
Moral: When you're working on a major change in America and want to get public support, don't hide what you're up to and don't try to do it on your own.
Robert Bennett, former U.S. senator from Utah, is a part-time teacher, researcher and lecturer at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.
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