Three primarily political reasons drove the Obama concession yesterday to allow insurance companies to continue to cover customers whose plans don’t meet ObamaCare standards. And none really had anything to do with doing what was right for the citizenry. He wasn’t really doing anyone any favors except Democrats. He was, as usual, focused solely on limiting political damage.
One reason that drove the concession was the usual – an attempt to start shifting the blame. As Megan McArdle points out:
This may be a near-perfect specimen of that Washington perennial: the nonsolution solution. Insurers are already warning that they can’t simply allow people to stay on their old plans, firstly because all plans have to be approved by state insurers who haven’t signed onto this, and secondly because getting their computer systems to reissue the canceled policies is a hefty programming task that may not be possible to complete by the end of the year. But that’s not the administration’s problem, is it? They can say, “Hey, we changed the rule — if your insurer went ahead and canceled your policy anyway, that’s not our fault!”
Blame shifting is as natural to this administration as breathing is to the rest of us. While they take more heat, they can now pass some of it off to insurers who were simply following the law as the Democrats and the administration had written it. Now they’re the bad guys. As you might imagine, the insurance industry is furious. And insurance regulators? Well, they’re left wondering what is what.
Reason number two for the concession was Congressional Democrat panic. Karl Rove has some thoughts on that:
Mr. Obama’s assertion in the NBC interview that “the majority of folks” whose coverage is canceled will “be able to get better care at the same cost or cheaper” is also likely to be false. The higher premiums that result from ObamaCare’s bells-and-whistles coverage mandates may be offset for some by subsidies, but most people will pay more.
This problem will get worse and poses a dilemma for Mr. Obama and Democrats. A March analysis by Healthpocket.com estimated that less than 2% of individual plans comply with ObamaCare’s mandates. A Nov. 7 study by McClatchy Newspapers suggests as many as 52 million people, including many covered by their employers, could lose their plan.
As the 2014 election approaches, these people will be (a) losing coverage or have lost it already, (b) shopping for new policies, (c) suffering sticker shock over higher premiums and deductibles and (d) wondering why Mr. Obama called their previous policy with doctors they liked “subpar.” Then, next September and October, they’ll be told about premium increases for 2015.
Democrats know this, and that is why they’re pushing so hard for a delay in these cancellations. They’re really not so much interested in a “fix” as they are in enough time to avoid the consequences of the law in 2014. So they’re very willing to grab this totally short-term political “solution” by kicking the can down the road in order to weather the 2014 midterms. By the time this rears its ugly head again in full, they’re hoping the elections will be over.
Again, this isn’t about people losing coverage. This is about Democrats losing office.
And finally the third reason was a real need to get out in front of the Upton bill in the House. Kimberley Strassel covers that:
The primary purpose of the White House “fix” was to get out ahead of the planned Friday vote on Michigan Republican Fred Upton’s “Keep Your Health Plan Act.” The stage was set for dozens of Democrats to join with the GOP for passage—potentially creating a veto-proof majority, and putting enormous pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to follow suit.
The White House couldn’t risk such a bipartisan rebuke. Moreover, the Upton bill—while it lacks those GOP joy words of “delay” or “repeal”—poses a threat, since it would allow insurers to continue providing non-ObamaCare policies to any American who wants one. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu‘s version of the bill would in fact (unconstitutionally) order insurers to offer the plans in perpetuity. Both bills undermine the law’s central goal of forcing healthy people into costly ObamaCare exchange plans that subsidize the sick.
The president’s “fix” is designed to limit such grandfathering, but that’s why it is of dubious political help to Democrats. Within minutes of Mr. Obama’s announcement, several Democratic senators, including North Carolina’s Kay Hagan —whose poll numbers have plummeted in advance of her 2014 re-election bid—announced that they remain in favor of Landrieu-style legislation.
But it’s not going to happen. Obama has already said he’d veto the Upton legislation. There’s a message there for Mary Landrieu as well.
This was all about Barack Obama, as usual. It is a result of raw political calculation – his only seeming area of competence. He’s now managed a political solution which serves him about as well as any solution can in the mess he and his administration have made of this atrocious law. He’s found someone else to shift the blame too, he’s quieted Democrats, at least for the moment and he’s politically pre-empted a GOP move that would have seriously damaged his signature legislation and dumped his leadership and credibility ratings even lower.
For him, this is about as good as it gets.