Michael Gerson: Obamacare's rocky start holds hard lessons for Democrats

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  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    Nov. 2, 2013 9:26 p.m.

    re:The Real Maverick

    Your assertion that the Obamacare web site melt down is the biggest issue with Obamacare indicates you clearly don't understand the bill. Actually the web site disaster is only small potatoes compared to the law itself. Really guy do some research. I only have 100 words here so I will try to hit the high points (or low points) of the law.

    1. The law was grossly under estimated cost wise. Initial estimates of 800 billion aren't even close to the nearly 2.5 trillion ...and growing...
    2. The raw mechanics of the law will continue to erode private insurance at an alarming rate. Cancellations are just beginning. Wait a year and then see....
    3. The insurance exchanges offer only high priced plans which offer little if any choice. Most are finding premiums 2-3 times what they were paying with premiums mandating maturity for 60 year old men and women and other absurdities.
    4.Other mandates for employers forcing reduction of work hours to 27 per week or slamming companies with huge tax penalties.

    The laughable web site is only a precursor of the ugly realities of the law itself.

  • samhill Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 2, 2013 12:44 p.m.

    Speaking of Secretary Sibelius, Mr. Gerson states, "Now, in congressional testimony, she has accepted responsibility without the inconvenience of accountability or the demonstration of competence."

    This kind of abdication of **true** responsibility goes far beyond that of Sibelius. It is characteristic of the entire Obama administration.

    Starting with the now almost tragically comical reflexively repeated references to the Bush administration as cause of current problems and failures, it continued to the tragically insufficient security before and then deliberate mischaracterizations of the attack on Benghazi, and on to some supposedly minor IRS functionaries responsible for the politicization of the IRS, among a series of other scandals that Obama referred to so dishonestly as "phony".

    The Obamacare roll out disaster is merely the latest in an increasingly long list of examples of incompetence and/or outright corruption. The continued attempts to implement Obamacare will only mean the damage gets worse.

  • E Sam Provo, UT
    Nov. 2, 2013 11:29 a.m.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: Obamacare will NOT be a Republican issue in the 2016 Presidential campaign. By then, a buggy roll-out will have been long forgotten. The program will have proved its worth, it will be popular, and no one will dare attack it.
    Do you remember how rocky the first months of Medicare were? Study history--it looked like a train wreck for a few months there. Likewise Social Security.
    None of this matters. Obamacare isn't perfect--no one said it was. It's a compromise program. But we can know, with absolute certainty how it will function. All we have to do is look at Massachusetts.
    I'll say it again. Any Republican foolish enough to run on Obamacare in 2016 will be crushed. It's going to work just fine, and it's going to be popular.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 11:42 p.m.

    On the other hand, any time new ground is plowed it's going to be rocky. There's a chance the software problems will be worked out and all of this bluster will be a distant memory. Remember, ACA is a plan of action for health care access, whereas the software is just a vehicle. Don't confuse them, thought Tea Party wants you to.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 6:25 p.m.


    Airbus competes with Boeing to supply airlines with transportation seats. The market price for travel is established through competition, the product is seats to & from various city pairs.

    Obamacare does nothing to diminish the competition among healthcare providers.

    Health insurance is a racket. I used to work for a health insurance company, trust me, the goal all insurance companies have is to jettison the unhealthy (because they cost too much) and attract healthy people who don't really need healthcare.

    Obamacare will increase the number of people who are getting healthcare, and competition among healthcare providers will increase, even as they (collectively) figure out how to reduce costs.

    Healthcare is the product, Obamacare sets the legal parameters for the market to work, and gets additional customers into that market. It took a few years for RomneyCare to get going in Massachusetts, but now it's doing a generally good job of what it was intended to do.

    Since the two are very similar, there's no reason to think Obamacare can't likewise do a good job - if it's not snuffed out by its opponents first.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 5:02 p.m.

    @The Real Maverick

    The website problems are only what we see on the surface. Obamacare's entire structure is broken, and it will fail. Watch and see.

    (Just so you know, this isn't a party thing with me. I don't belong to a political party.)

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 4:50 p.m.

    @Turtles Run "During the months of health care debate the opposition proposed no real alternatives to the ACA."

    You've been told this, but it isn't true.

    @louie "Are politicians really supposed to know about creating and managing a web site...?"

    No. Of course not. They shouldn't be running a market website, and they shouldn't be trying to run the health industry. They don't know what they're doing. We've been saying this for years.

    Obama has just given us a real-life lesson on the perils of Big Government. This is what progressivism looks like. They're never quite as smart as they think they are, and the failures are spectacular.

  • The Real Maverick Orem, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 4:40 p.m.

    Sounds to me like repubs are like bitter children here.

    They've been told so many times these past few weeks how they have learned lessons about the shutdown and the backlash against the GOP that now they're trying to "teach" lessons to the Democrats. Ha ha! Hilarious!

    What lessons can we learn from the Obamacare website? I have no clue. Ummmm make a better website next time? Ok. Check.

    If the repubs have to grasp at straws over the website then that's telling you something. In fact, if the biggest problem we experience over Obamacare is the initial setup with the website then the program will clearly be one of the greatest successes in recent history. I mean, look at Iraq! What a disaster! The gift that keeps on costing us more billions and lives per year. Thanks repubs, for that one.

    Furthermore, I'm tired of the GOP voicing "concern." They've cried wolf far too often to be taken seriously anymore.

    Lastly, perhaps the GOP should have done something other than stand and watch the paint dry for 8 years. Had they reformed health care under Bush, none of this would be happening today.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 3:58 p.m.

    While its hard to think of a justifiable excuse for someone with as much money to spend as the U.S. government not being able to come up with a working website in 3 years time, it still is a laudable goal that every American get decent health care. Democratic hearts are in the right place.

    I'm willing to bet that if Republicans had been in charge getting the website up and running the website would not have been an issue. Republicans heads are in the right place.

    Too bad we don't seem to have a party in charge with a good heart and a good head.

  • Turtles Run Houston, TX
    Nov. 1, 2013 3:50 p.m.

    SCfan wrote: With health care that choice is being taken away, and will be completely gone if we ever get a single payer program.

    Choice? What choices are you losing? The choice to be denied coverage, to be dropped for actually using insurance, to have insurance that is basically worthless, and to choice to pass your health care costs to others because you refuse to or are incapable to pay for your health care.

    Notice those nations with socialized medicine are not rushing to implement our system? Maybe its because they see the results and want nothing to it.

  • Res Novae Ashburn, VA
    Nov. 1, 2013 3:33 p.m.


    Sorry for the complete tangent to the article's point, but as a Pentagon contracting officer, I can't ignore your erroneous claim that the Obama administration is purposefully trying to put defense contractors out of business. You're confusing contractor profit (simply put, the money a contracting company makes after paying its employees, subcontractors, overhead etc) with award fee (essentially a bonus given for high-quality work; it's completely subjective).

    The latter has been targeted for several years now because with the gobs of money thrown around to fight two wars, contractors started earning 100% of their award fees despite glaring performance issues. Contractor program managers would be sacked for only earning 90% of the award fee. When contractors come to expect earning 100% of the available award fee and aren't providing the outstanding services necessary to earn it, there's a problem. DOD's marching orders were to tighten use of award fee contracts and be more stringent in determining how much award fee contractors are truly entitled to.

    No conspiracy here.

    Contractors continue to rake in profits, though that's threatened by sequester - which Republicans decided they could live with rather than agree to increased tax revenue.

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 3:29 p.m.

    Hey, lets all get hysterical everyday about health care.

  • David Centerville, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 2:29 p.m.


    You and other liberals are beginning to see the debacle that is Obamacare. That is good. But to continue maintaining political power you use Democratic campaign-like playbook scare tactics by claiming that Republicans want to eliminate Social Security and Medicaid. That is absolutely ridiculous.

    "The wealthy far right would like nothing better than the early expiration of the baby boom generation, a demonstration of our social disintegration."

    WHAT? Where in the world are you getting this stuff?

    And what planet do you live on?

    I am sincere about wondering where you have heard such nonsense.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 1:16 p.m.


    The difference is that Airbus has to make a plane that airlines and pilots like, and want to buy and fly. No one or government forces anyone to buy their product. And there is a good choice between Airbus and Boeing. With health care that choice is being taken away, and will be completely gone if we ever get a single payer program. We the people are being stuck with health care programs that we don't want to fly with.

  • SLars Provo, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 12:12 p.m.

    Next time maybe the Democratic senators will read the bill first.

  • Turtles Run Houston, TX
    Nov. 1, 2013 12:07 p.m.

    It is hard to take the detractors of the law serious. During the months of health care debate the opposition proposed no real alternatives to the ACA. To this day the GOTP has refused to work to fix the deficiencies to the law or again offer an alternative. Throw in the state's that refused to implement the law and the roll out becomes more difficult.

    The GOTP has spent the past three years throwing a temper tantrum to end the law and when funding to implement the law the House stalled and refused to authorize the needed funds.

    Funny, how the author does not point to the successful roll-out by states that agreed to create their own exchange. Nope, more convenient to point to the work they sabotaged from the beginning.

  • joe5 South Jordan, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 11:46 a.m.

    I work in the defense industry. In 2010, the pentagon put out a letter to defense procurement agencies that profit should only be given for exceptional performance. If a contractor merely executes the program efficiently and effectively, they should not receive profit. When I asked why the Pentagon would say something so stupid since it would ultimately drive investors away and drive defense contractors our of defense and into profitable, I was informed that this is the objective of the current administration. They, in fact, want contractors to out of business. They think they can hire those same employees as government workers and do the work themselves.

    Does anybody really believe this will strengthen our national defense?

    This, along with all the other indicators including Obamacare, clearly shows that the current administration honestly believes government should do everything and there should not be any private industry. Sounds very scary (think Soviet Russia) to me.

  • patriot Cedar Hills, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 11:22 a.m.

    Wow - great post. Agreed with most everything said which is strange for the liberal Washington Post. I think this article articulates the damaging effects of Obamacare that Jay Carney or Chris Mathews never talk about. I think the article could have gone further to show that the cancellations are just beginning ..some estimate by this time next year as many as 90 million will have been cancelled. The scary thing is the cancellations will eventually drill down to the large employers who will being dropping their plans outright for their employees simply because of the cost...which means that you and me will get hit. This should scare anyone who has a long time doctor or who has special care needs and especially those who are on a fairly tight budget. Rush Limbaugh predicted ALL of this exactly 5 years ago....I'm just saying....hard for a liberal to admit that I understand. Some people who really see the BIG picture and the real agenda of Obama can predict the future of his polices with relative ease and they are right on the money.

  • louie Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 11:09 a.m.

    "Lessons for Democrats"

    Are politicians really supposed to know about creating and managing a web site, or is this more about form a journalist making an issue over the form rather than substance. Are Americans that shallow that AFA success really depends on how the website is launched. My advice is make the phone call, order the forms and sign up the old fashioned way. I think most of us can remember how to do that.

  • ugottabkidn Sandy, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 11:07 a.m.

    This is a symptom of what happens when government contracts to private enterprise (for easy money) more than it is a revelation of actual government performance. You seem to forget that the government (you) is nothing more than an administrator and law maker.

  • 10CC Bountiful, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 9:57 a.m.


    If your vision of reality is true, how do you explain Airbus? From the conservative mindset, the engineers from Airbus have no motivation to even go to work, as they could easily lay around and not do a thing, and still be taken care of.

    Yet, somehow, these slaves of government coddling produce aircraft that are not just technologically and economically competitive, but are seriously eroding the marketshare of Boeing - their private US competition. Travel around the US sometime and count how many Airbus planes are out there, compared to 10 years ago. Ask the pilots of an Airbus plane what they think of them.

    The conservative explanation of reality evaporates when really put to the test. It is a caricature, an exaggeration we're fed.

    Gerson likewise reveals the severely slanted salesmanship we've all been fed. The British healthcare system is admired and valued by British citizens? Patently impossible, if you subscribe to conservative thinking.

    Companies have spectacular failures like the ACA website rollout all the time. Just not as high profile, and certainly not political fodder for partisans.

  • SCfan clearfield, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 9:15 a.m.

    One Vote

    This ain't a good program and for several really good reasons. This ACA was SOLD to the country as insuring the 30 or so million uninsured people. Many of them come from the temporary uninsured class anyway. Yet, as one pregnant women stated in the article, why is she being affected? Why are all of us being affected who have had insurance by our employers for years? Why does the government then take it upon itself to declare that some health policies are not good and we have to change, while paying more? It is obvious that Obama lied to get this country on the road to a single payer government health plan. Now maybe lefties like you think that is a good idea, but it stinks that we the people have been lied to by the President of the United States in order for the ends to justify the means. And no poll yet shows a popular majority for this. You may want to be treated as a member of the nanny state, but a lot of us don't.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 8:59 a.m.

    The statement “those who believe in government are not necessarily capable of running one” is nonsense.

    Everyone believes in government. It is the choice of governments that causes the problems. The governments in our lives include our religion, our business, our gender and a whole lot of other organizations all the way down to Mom and Dad. The most important government must be recognized as the one which protects and enables us to live, our national political government.

    If we want good government, the people who hate government should not be allowed to be the government. Would you choose a doctor who was averse to curing people’s problems? A laborer who didn’t want to get his hands dirty? A pilot who was afraid of heights?

    The people who hate our national government are those wishing to impose their own choice of government on our lives. None of the other governments do the job of protecting and enabling us that the national government provides.

    The greatest freedom for people only comes from a secular, non-commercial government controlled by the people. It may sometimes be a bumpy ride, but it’s the direction that counts.

  • mohokat Ogden, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 8:50 a.m.

    Great program. Named after a person with no credibility here or abroad. I didn't know. It was a video.I didn't draw a line. You can keep your present insurance and Doctor. And,and, and!

  • one vote Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 8:36 a.m.

    Yes, good programs take a lot of work.

  • red state pride Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 8:09 a.m.

    I think Mitt Romney would have committed hari kari as a matter of honor if he had been the executive in charge of the implementation of Obamacare and the rollout was the disaster that this has been. But what does President Obama do? The same thing he always does- go out and give a speech and criticize his opponents in the Republican party. Nice leadership. One of the big problems with this administration is they seem to think words are action. They think giving speeches addresses problems. That's what happens when the Chief Executive has no prior executive experience.
    The fact is, if you are going to be the party of big government and try to sell Americans on the benefits of big government then you may want to have more than a passing interest in making sure that big government runs properly. It's embarrassing frankly. Domestically and internationally. Like Cheney said- our friends don't trust us and our enemies don't fear us. And the American people (the ones who work for a living) just ignore the President now and go about their business. Way to go Democrats- nice leadership.

  • Mountanman Hayden, ID
    Nov. 1, 2013 7:45 a.m.

    The government is now in charge of determining winners and losers in life. Hard work, perseverance, frugality, ingenuity and self reliance? Doesn't matter any more and there is no reason to put yourself out, so why try? Just get on the receiving end and relax. Enjoy the free ride because it won't last that long.

  • marxist Salt Lake City, UT
    Nov. 1, 2013 2:04 a.m.

    Gerson's description of the situation is pretty accurate, but there is another danger lurking which he doesn't address, and that is the intent of well funded right wing types, e.g. the Koch Bros., to use the rocky rollout of the ACA as a lever to defund both medicare and social security. So the inattention to detail in the opening of the ACA has put seniors in grave danger. I'm sure President Obama did not intend this, but there it is. The misrepresention of U S debt composition in the public mind doesn't help either.

    Seniors and retirees had better pay rapt attention to what is going on, or many of them may be left with nothing. The wealthy far right would like nothing better than the early expiration of the baby boom generation, a demonstration of our social disintegration. Can Democrats defend us boomers? Or is it going to take another type of party - I claim the latter.