Saturday, December 07, 2013

Is Obamacare Here to Stay?

A few days ago columnist Dana Milbank proclaimed:
But fixing the Web site after its embarrassing launch means that opponents of the Affordable Care Act have lost what may have been their last chance to do away with the law. And supporters can rule out the worst-case scenario: Obamacare isn't going away.
Is this true?

First, the site is working much better than at launch but it still fails 20% of the time. Any private company that rejected 1 out of 5 characters would be out of business fast. It shows how bad the site was at launch that this can be considered fixed.

There is also the issue of the back-end. The information going to insurance companies is often wrong or incomplete. No information has been released about the error rate but the rumor is that up to a third of the applications processed to date have been bad. Again, and private company that screwed up to one third of it's orders could not stay in business.

Obamacare is a lesson in the limits of government. The site was badly implemented by people who had no idea what they were doing. The people at the top had no idea that the site was not working, they discouraged the people below them from giving them bad news. None of this inspires confidence in the government's ability to implement Obamacare.

These are technical issues and can be solved. There are bigger problems coming up. The exchanges have not been attracting the right mix of applicants which will affect future premiums. People will find that they are losing their doctor as well as the policies they like.

There is also the issue of people who lost their coverage. The site will have to sign up nearly a quarter million people daily all month just to break even. If the immediate result of Obamacare is that more people lost their coverage than gain it then popularity for it will drop even more.

So, there will be continuing pressure to repeal Obamacare. President Obama has made it clear that he will fight any attempt to change or repeal it. That makes it harder but it is still possible. A lot depends on how much public sentiment goes. If things keep going bad with the implementation then Congress will end up running from it. Several Democrats are from states with Republican governors. They last ran in 2008 with a Democratic wave and Obama on the top of the ticket. They will have neither of those in 2014. Will any decide to turn their backs on Obamacare and join with the Republicans? It takes 66 votes to override a Presidential veto but that could be reachable.

It will be even more possible if the Republicans regain the Senate and increase their seats in the House. Continuing problems with Obamacare could easily cause this.

Assuming that Obama blocks all efforts at repeal, there is a very good chance that he will be succeeded by a Republican. The next president might even run on a platform of repealing Obamacare.

All of this assumes that the whole thing will be a failure. It is possible that the problems will resolve themselves quickly and that people will forgive Obama for his "if you like your policy you can keep it" lie. It all depends on how much faith you have in big government.

No comments: