New White House ObamaCare strategy: Let's talk about something other than ObamaCare

Tough call for O. Does he try a big ObamaCare cheerleading offensive in order to counterprogram the horror stories about how stupid and hubristic his team was in building and how unhappy millions of consumers are to be losing their insurance? Or does he go silent on O-Care and start tossing out shiny objects willy nilly to the media in order to try to distract people? Choosing the first option would make him look disjointed from reality; choosing the second would make him look pathetic and desperate. Solution: Do a little of both and hope that the combo minimizes the fallout from each. And so, for the thousandth time in his presidency, he’s pivoting to jobs — and to amnesty and to the minimum wage, with a sprinkling of blather about the glories of health-care technocracy mixed in.

There’s actual news here too, beyond the easy opportunity to giggle at yet another half-assed, opportunistic Hopenchange “pivot.”

The president will headline a health-care event Monday with Obama re-election campaign supporters and another on Wednesday in Texas with volunteers who are helping consumers learn about and enroll” in the health-care program, according to the White House. On Tuesday, he will hold an event on immigration, followed by an economic event Friday at a port in New Orleans. The schedule will make Mr. Obama more visible than in recent weeks, which he has spent largely behind the scenes.

The White House is also preparing to announce several executive actions in December, including private-sector partnerships, aimed at jobs and economic growth, a senior administration official said. The actions, which are still being crafted, will focus on infrastructure and increasing workforce skills—a priority of business leaders Mr. Obama has been meeting with in recent weeks, the official said.

A push to raise the minimum wage is also under discussion in the West Wing, people familiar with the issue said. Mr. Obama urged Congress during his State of the Union address early this year to increase the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, from $7.25 now, and index it to inflation. The proposal didn’t gain momentum…

The president’s senior aides had at one time planned for him to be holding events aimed at encouraging Americans to shop for insurance on the new federal health-care website, with stops in places with high numbers of uninsured people. But the problems plaguing the site have forced them to shift strategies.

If the website was working, the White House would be in “all ObamaCare all the time” mode right now — not (just) because they’d be eager for a victory lap but because time is of the essence in getting healthy uninsured middle-class people to enroll. The deadline to sign up is December 15th if you want your coverage to begin on January 1st; the whole reason they’re panicking over getting the site fixed ASAP is because they’re expecting/hoping for a huge crush of enrollments after Thanksgiving, as word spreads among the public about the deadline. That’s what they had hoped to do this month — have Obama sound the alarm nationally that 12/15 is D-Day if you want your coverage to begin soon. But he can’t do that when the website’s melting down because it’ll spark a thousand news stories about how unfair it is to ask people to sign up when there’s no easy way for them to do so. All of which is to say, there’s no earthly way he’d sacrifice valuable O-Care publicity time now, with just a month and a half left, to push pandering crapola like the minimum wage instead unless he has reason to believe that the website won’t be ready to handle enrollments in the next few weeks. What he’s telling you by changing the subject here is that he expects the site’s issues to persist until mid-November at the very, very earliest, which means he’ll have just one short month to put out the word about the deadline if he wants to avoid a nasty adverse selection problem among enrollees at the start of the New Year.

And yet, as one official said to the WSJ, “We are very aware of the fact that health care is going to overshadow November, and it’s probably going to overshadow December.” There’s only so far Obama can run away from this, in other words. Enough experts have told enough media outfits that the situation will be dire if the site isn’t fixed by the end of the month that alarms will start sounding in news bureaus in mid-November if progress hasn’t been made. The brief pivot to other stuff like jobs and amnesty is, I take it, a last chance for O before the ObamaCare DefCon level drops another notch to talk up issues that are popular with the public and which might buoy his job approval a bit before he’s forced to make some hard decisions about whether to delay part or all of the law until next year. It’s a small concession that things are about to get worse, not better. If you think Senate Democrats are nervous now, wait until Thanksgiving. Exit quotation: “Asked whether the White House’s credibility had been shot through this latest episode, one Democratic senator said: ‘You got to have it, to lose it.'”

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John Sexton 10:00 PM on June 02, 2023