Speaking at the John F. Kennedy Library where he was accepting a Profiles in Courage award, former President Obama urged Democrats to show courage in defending his health care law.
“I hope that current members of Congress recall that it actually doesn’t take a lot of courage to aid those who are already powerful, already comfortable, already influential. But it does require some courage to champion the vulnerable and the sick and the infirm,” Obama said.
He added, “I hope they understand that courage means not simply doing what is simply politically expedient, but doing what they believe deep in their hearts is right.”
Obama also praised Democrats who passed the law in 2010, many at the loss of their seats, saying, “They did the hard thing.”
Not mentioned by Obama are any of the ongoing problems with his signature law. Premiums appear to be rising steeply again after double-digit hikes last year. At least two states may have areas with no coverage at all next year. Even the states that do have coverage will have less competition as more insurers pull out of the exchanges.
What Obama didn’t say is that his law’s future is hanging by a thread. Enrollment dropped this year, a clear sign the law was struggling before Trump came into office. And if the AHCA passes the Senate there is reason to think states will choose to apply for waivers to opt out of the law’s coverage requirements. As Kaiser Health News reports today, it probably won’t be just red states looking for the exit:
“With the skimpier subsidies, states are going to be under enormous pressure to apply for these waivers,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms.
These opt-out provisions could accelerate the unraveling of Obamacare, even in places that fully embraced the landmark law.
“Certainly the Californias and New Yorks of the world will do what they can to hold onto the ACA protections. But when confronted with insurer exits and big price hikes, many states with the best of intentions may feel they have little choice but to get a waiver,” Corlette said.
It certainly will take courage for Democrats to defend a law that is clearly not working as planned. Here’s Obama’s full speech. The section about Obamacare begins around 17 minutes in.