Spread­ing around the blame for Oba­macare

The pres­i­dent switches gears from apol­ogy to at­tack

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Don­ald Lam­bro

Soon af­ter Pres­i­dent Obama told the White House press corps he was solely re­spon­si­ble for the botched Oba­macare roll­out, he de­cided to shift part of the blame onto Repub­li­cans. A mea culpa can be hard to de­liver in pub­lic when you are the kind of politi­cian who thinks he never makes mis­takes and rarely if ever apol­o­gizes for any­thing that went wrong. Mr. Obama’s apolo­gies have a brief shelf life, and so a few days later, they had reached their ex­pi­ra­tion date.

At a gath­er­ing of busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives on Nov. 19, the pres­i­dent con­cluded that he had done enough grov­el­ing over his ut­terly false claim that “if you like your health insurance pol­icy, you can keep it” and went on the po­lit­i­cal at­tack.

Some­how, he de­cided the Repub­li­cans in Congress were partly to blame for the bun­gled mess that he and his ad­min­is­tra­tion had cre­ated and that it wasn’t all his fault. He also said the bro­ken, online, sign-up sys­tem was in the process of be­ing fixed and would be up and run­ning at full throt­tle by the end of Novem­ber. That doesn’t seem to be the case en­tirely.

Then he turned on the Repub­li­cans with a vengeance. He sug­gested that their in­tran­si­gent po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion had in­hib­ited the law’s im­ple­men­ta­tion. “One of the prob­lems we’ve had is one side of Capi­tol Hill is in­vested in its fail­ure,” he told the chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cers at The Wall Street Jour­nal’s CEO Coun­cil meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton last week.

He also sug­gested the Repub­li­cans’ “ide­o­log­i­cal re­sis­tance to the idea of deal­ing with the unin­sured and peo­ple with pre-ex­ist­ing con­di­tions” was also a fac­tor in what went wrong.

Repub­li­cans had their own ideas about how to pro­vide wider ac­cess to lower-cost health care, but it was not the costly, gov­ern­ment-run, top-down bu­reau­cracy Mr. Obama wanted and got from the Democrats.

The larger or­ga­ni­za­tional prob­lems that pre­sum­ably led to the mess the gov­ern­ment is still try­ing to fix stemmed from the po­lit­i­cal bick­er­ing in Wash­ing­ton that threat­ened to dam­age his pres­i­dency’s sig­na­ture achieve­ment, he fur­ther sug­gested.

Both ends of Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue needed to “break through the stub­born cy­cle of cri­sis pol­i­tics and start work­ing to­gether,” he said.

I did a lit­tle check­ing with con­sti­tu­tional schol­ars, and no one can find any pro­vi­sion in the Con­sti­tu­tion that gives law­mak­ers any role in help­ing the ex­ec­u­tive branch im­ple­ment laws passed by Congress.

Mr. Obama has made bom­bas­tic claims over the course of his pres­i­dency that have not proven true. How­ever, to blame Repub­li­cans, who con­trol only one-half of Congress, for any part this de­ba­cle is a huge reach.

He also blamed the gov­ern­ment’s in­for­ma­tiontech­nol­ogy sys­tem, say­ing it’s “not very ef­fi­cient.” Whose fault is that? He’s the chief ex­ec­u­tive who is in charge of see­ing that the laws are car­ried out in a fair and ef­fi­cient way, and of en­sur­ing that they work and meet all dead­lines.

Judg­ing from the moun­tain of gov­ern­ment au­dits that have ex­posed waste, in­ef­fi­cien­cies and other skull­dug­gery in his ad­min­is­tra­tion, he’s not the least bit in­ter­ested in the de­tails and process of run­ning any­thing — least of all his health care mess. His prom­ise that Oba­macare’s online com­puter sys­tem would be ready for busi­ness by Nov. 30 came im­me­di­ately af­ter an ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial who over­sees the tech­ni­cal side of the fed­eral health insurance mar­ket­place told Congress that 30 per­cent to 40 per­cent of the over­all sys­tem was un­fin­ished.

Henry Chao, deputy chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer for the Cen­ters for Medi­care and Med­i­caid Ser­vices, said ma­jor parts of Mr. Obama’s pro­gram, in­clud­ing its ac­count­ing and pay­ments to insurance com­pa­nies, were still in­com­plete.

“If the busi­ness func­tions are not in place on time, it could cre­ate havoc with a sys­tem through which bil­lions of dol­lars in fed­eral tax money will flow to sub­si­dize cov­er­age for con­sumers who oth­er­wise could not af­ford it, insurance in­dus­try of­fi­cials said,” Reuters news agency re­ported. The first pay­ments were due by mid- to late Jan­uary, but now we learn that the ac­count­ing sys­tem is far from ready to process the most crit­i­cal part of Oba­macare.

Big­ger fi­nan­cial prob­lems loom on the hori­zon that could bring Oba­macare crash­ing down be­fore it even gets started.

One is the need to get very large num­bers of younger, healthier peo­ple to sign up for insurance to pay for older, poorer ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The ad­min­is­tra­tion promised the insurance in­dus­try this would hap­pen, but now that is very much in doubt.

“I now think there is lit­tle hope we are go­ing to get enough younger, healthy peo­ple to sign up, and that means that this law is in grave dan­ger of fi­nan­cial col­lapse,” Robert Laszewski, pres­i­dent of Health Pol­icy and Strat­egy As­so­ci­ates, a health care in­dus­try con­sul­tant, told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

The num­ber of peo­ple who have signed up thus far is rel­a­tively small, far from the tens of mil­lions of ap­pli­cants needed to make it work.

There are also trou­bling ques­tions about whether the In­ter­nal Rev­enue Ser­vice will be ready to carry out nearly four dozen new tasks un­der the law. The IRS must fig­ure out who has insurance and who does not, and thus who they will fine for be­ing unin­sured. It must also be­gin to dis­trib­ute tril­lions of dol­lars in insurance sub­si­dies.

Mean­while, more than 5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have had their pri­vate insurance poli­cies can­celed, and busi­nesses are lay­ing off em­ploy­ees or re­duc­ing hours worked to avoid the pres­i­dent’s un­pop­u­lar and un­work­able insurance man­dates.

Mr. Obama has started to blame Repub­li­cans, who warned this would hap­pen and voted against it.

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