October 16, 2021

Abandon Ship: Another Democratic Senator Admits Obamacare Was a Mistake

First came this frank and stunning analysis from Chuck Schumer, an evidently disgruntled member of Senate Democrats’ leadership team. Now Iowa’s Tom Harkin — one of the ignominious 60 ‘yes’ votes for Obamacare who will be replaced by conservative Republican Joni Ernst in January — weighs in:

He wonders in hindsight whether the law was made overly complicated to satisfy the political concerns of a few Democratic centrists who have since left Congress. “We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly and we didn’t do it,” Harkin told The Hill. “So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all. “What we did is we muddle through and we got a system that is complex, convoluted, needs probably some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively,” he added. … Harkin says in retrospect the Democratic-controlled Senate and House should have enacted a single-payer healthcare system or a public option to give the uninsured access to government-run health plans that compete with private insurance companies. “We had the votes in ’09. We had a huge majority in the House, we had 60 votes in the Senate,” he said.

Harkin regrets that Congressional Democrats didn’t go for the gold and place the entire American healthcare system under complete government control.  Because the feds have done such a bang-up job with government owned-and-operated healthcare systems for our veterans and Native Americans.  And they’ve been terrific at keeping other massive single-payer-style systems solvent and sustainable.  Politically speaking, Harkin is delusional if he thinks Democrats, even with their huge majorities, could have imposed fully nationalized healthcare back in 2010.  Harry Reid barely corralled the requisite 60 votes for Obamacare, and he needed to employ tawdry  buy-offs and bargains to get there.  Nancy Pelosi barely overcame dozens of defections on Obamacare as it was written; she did not have the votes for a system-destroying “public option,” let alone the full enchilada.  Nevertheless, this is the second Senate Democrat to openly admit that the president’s signature law was a political mistake and isn’t working.  One wonders how folks like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, Kay Hagan, Mark Begich, Mark Udall and others must feel.  They stuck their necks out for Team Obama, then got mowed down by irate voters, with Obamacare front and center.  It’s one thing to fall on your legislative sword for a controversial but needed and successful law.  Instead, they parroted party lies about legislation that remains as widely unpopular as ever, and is actively hurting significantly more people than it’s helping.  Bravo, guys.  Thomas Edsall wonders in the New York Times if Obamacare is “destroying the Democratic Party.”  He reviews in glorious detail the furious recriminations Schumer’s assessment provoked by Obamacare’s true believers, then looks ahead to future complications:

Of the 60 Democratic senators who voted for Obamacare in 2010, 28 are no longer in office. Of course, not all of the retirements and defeats can be attributed to the advent of Obamacare, but the numbers are striking. The electoral scorecard suggests that Schumer may have less opposition than anticipated to his bid to shift the central concern of the party to more overtly economic issues. Insofar as Democrats try to reduce hostility to Obamacare, they face two problems. The first is a Republican Party unwilling to support any legislation making the A.C.A. more palatable. The other is the danger that tinkering with any of the provisions that have provoked the strongest opposition could eviscerate the legislation….As if Democrats do not already have enough trouble, data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that many, if not most, of the seven million people who purchased insurance through the A.C.A. will either have to pay higher premiums or higher deductibles, or submit themselves to the complex process of switching plans.

Barring a stunning upset, that first number will grow to 29 on Saturday, when Mary Landrieu loses her re-election bid in Louisiana.  That last bolded bit underscores the problem Democrats face.  Coming attractions include more plan cancellations, higher premiums, rising costs, access shock — and upheaval among the consumers who’ve supposedly been “helped” by the law.  Kathleen Sebelius is taking a page from Jon Gruber’s sneering arrogance playbook, explaining away Obamacare’s unpopularity as a product of Americans’ economic illiteracy.  The truth is just the opposite.  She and her colleagues made specific promises about the impact and outcomes the public should expect from the new law.  They got all of the big stuff wrong, often on purpose.  People actually aren’t the idiots Democrats take them to be.  They can easily understand when their premiums jump.  They can see their fatter deductibles.  They can read cancellation notices.  They get angry when they can’t keep their preferred plans and doctors, as promised.  They can feel when access to care tightens up.  Sebelius went on to joke that purchasing coverage through Healthcare.gov was akin to reserving airline tickets by fax — and it’s true that Healthcare.gov’s failure was catastrophic and embarrassing (Harkin and other dyed-in-the-wool Leftists see the utter collapse of Obamacare’s rollout and the horrible VA scandal, and are only convinced that the government needs more power and control).  But the core problem with Obamacare is the law itself, not its delivery method.  And the pack of lies on which it was built only compounds its defenders’ credibility problem.