What ObamaCare has cost Democrats

First, Obama’s credibility is undermined. “If you like your health-care plan,” he said, “you will be able to keep your health-care plan. Period.” It was the most emphatic, unqualified, high-profile public-policy promise since “Read my lips” — and its violation is at least as discrediting.

Second, Democrats have muddied their central political appeal of siding with the middle class. Some in that large, elastic category will come out ahead. Others will see their premiums dramatically increase without qualifying for subsidies. One self-employed pregnant woman who has recently lost coverage is quoted in the Los Angeles Times: “It doesn’t seem right to make the middle class pay so much more in order to give health insurance to everybody else.” Democrats will be forced to answer: It depends on what you mean by middle class.

Third, these challenges are beginning to divide the Democratic coalition. Many unions, already unhappy about Obamacare fees on group plans, are not rallying to defend the law. And many Democratic politicians will be tempted to distance themselves from Obamacare as dysfunction extends from weeks to months. This face plant, after all, took place on the first hurdle. It is far from clear whether the exchange risk pools will be large enough and diverse enough a year from now to work properly.