If you’re wondering why, please remember that whenever the Democrats or the White House get in trouble, step one of escaping that trouble is to use the bully pulpit to blame someone else. Oh, and there’s the fact that in the past, attacking the health insurance companies seemed to have worked:
The approach hasn’t sat well with some Democratic allies, who are publicly and privately urging the White House to ramp up its attacks on insurers, arguing that the the tactic shored up support as they struggled to push the bill through Congress. A group of Democratic strategists pressed senior administration officials during a conference call last week.
They’d like a repeat of 2009-10, when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called insurers “the villains,” Obama blasted their willingness to “bend the truth or break it,” and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius accused them of banking excessive profits.
“When Obamacare got into trouble, we juxtaposed our message against the insurance companies, which are very unpopular,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster who has advised her 2014 clients, including Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, to go after insurers. “We should be messaging against the insurance companies this time as well. This is not good faith. If there is a snowstorm, the insurance companies are blaming it on Obamacare.”
But there’s a problem. With the horrific rollout of ObamaCare, the White House needs the support of the industry they demonized for so long. They need the “villains”.
This time around, Obama needs the industry to make Obamacare work.
His restrained response over the past week shows just how much the dynamic between Obama and the insurance companies has shifted since the law passed — and how their fates have become intertwined. The health care law expands coverage to millions of Americans by sending them into the private insurance market armed with tax subsidies, forcing the president and his former nemeses into an uneasy partnership that’s only beginning to face strains.
“Their interests are aligned with our interests in terms of wanting to enroll targeted populations,” a senior White House official said Wednesday. “It is not that we will agree with everything now either, but I would say for some time now there has been a collaboration because of that mutual interest.”
The uneasy truce will likely exist until such a time as it is politically expedient for the White House to blame all of ACA’s ills on someone else — namely health insurance providers (trying to blame Republicans seems to have had little traction). But they can’t afford to do that at the moment. However, while a full frontal assault on the industry may not be in the offing, the White House is still inclined to snipe:
Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett angered insurers when she posted on Twitter that it was a “fact” that “nothing in Obamacare forces people out of their health plans.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney has been critical of insurance companies during his daily briefings, calling the individual market an under-regulated “Wild West.” But he’s tried to strike a balance, casting insurers as engaged in bad practices before the new health care law brought them into line.
Obama did the same during a health care speech Friday in Boston.
“Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy,” Obama said.
Ah, the life of a failed community organizer and his posse. Help create a monstrosity out of whole cloth and then, when it performs as poorly as critics said it would, find a “villain” and blame them. Except right now you need the villain. Meanwhile your party is raising the volume on its protests about the awful rollout and its effect on their chances for re-election next year.
What to do. What to do.