The callous disregard for the very idea of law inherent in this manner of governing is matched by the overt cynicism of the move itself: After having created the circumstances in which millions of people lose their health coverage, the administration imagines this latest move can allow Democrats to say that the president and his health reform are not at fault but insurers and state insurance commissioners are because, after all, although they have had to prepare to follow the law for three years they now have thirty days to prepare to ignore it. The president was incredibly explicit about this in his press conference on Thursday, saying “the key point is, is that it allows us to be able to say to the folks who’ve received these notices, look, you know, I, the president of the United States, and the insurance model of the Affordable Care Act is not going to be getting in the way of you shopping in the individual market that you used to have.” I guess they’ve got reason to think people will believe anything they say, but it’s still hard to imagine that argument working.
Even though the White House has done this sort of thing before, however, I think this particular exercise in imprudent expedience will carry particularly high costs, and those costs will not be all that far in the future. To address his very near-term political problem, the president has thrown the nation’s health insurers under the bus, even though he desperately needs their cooperation and support to mitigate the immense problems that the implementation of Obamacare now confronts. The response of the insurers, in the form of a statement put out by their industry group Thursday afternoon, was harsher than anything they have had to say about Obamacare since its inception, and it seems pretty clear that their basic disposition toward the administration and the law will now be changing for the worse. The insurers have no one to blame but themselves—they made a deal with Obamacare’s champions early on, knowing it was a gamble. But of course, they won’t be blaming themselves, and by turning them into scapegoats at this point the White House puts its effort to salvage something of Obamacare’s launch in even greater peril.