We had vowed to take a day off from writing about Obamacare , as all of us anarchist right-wing hostage-taking extremist types have lately been enjoying the debacle to an unseemly extent, but the day’s events left few other choices.
The Drudge Report provided its usual trove of offbeat fare, ranging from a scary story about a savage pack of skateboarders to an hilarious anecdote about the president’s peculiar social media preferences, but nothing quite so frightening or hilarious as the Obamacare saga. There are the usual foreign policy fiascos to take note of, but given America’s indifference to the rest of the world it will go unnoticed until Iran gets its nuclear bombs and detonates one someplace. The economy is just lousy enough to keep the Fed printing money and inflating the stock market bubble, and until that reaches its inevitable popping point the record number of Americans who aren’t participating in the labor market will be regarded as normal and therefore tolerable. Nothing in the news these days seems quite so attention-grabbing as Obamacare, so conservatives might as well revel in the bad news.
Only the most dour among us could have failed to derive some amusement from the president’s remarks on Thursday, when he proudly announced that all those millions of people who had lost their insurance policies even though he repeatedly promised them they could keep their policies if they liked them would be able to keep them after all. The world’s greatest orator assured the aggrieved millions that “I completely get how upsetting this can be,” and proceeded to explain that although he would not countenance any amendments to remove the law’s provisions that caused the cancellations he would be willing to exercise “enforcement discretion” to allow the continuation of what he has previously called “substandard” policies issued by “bad apple” insurers. He seemed confident that this would put to rest one of the law’s more embarrassing storylines, which has forced the poor scribes at The New York Times to describe the “you can keep your plan” lie as an “incorrect promise,” but it is already generating several strains of bad press.
Pretty much every Republican in the country and even such stalwart Democrats as John Dean are wondering if a president really has the “enforcement discretion” to utterly ignore the language of a law more or less duly passed by Congress and signed by the president himself, and one needn’t be an anti-government type such as ourselves to wonder what might happen to the rule of law if he does. Should there ever be another Republican in the White House he might well decide to discretely cease enforcement of the entire Obamacare law, which would be fine by us, but the prospect should give pause to any Democrat. This president can accurately cite numerous precedents for his authority to act in disregard of the law, many of them having to do with Obamacare, but doing so will not be reassuring except to his most ardent admirers.
Should you accept the questionable premise that Obama has the legal ability to allow what is clearly disallowed by the law he signed, there’s still the matter of how insurance companies are supposed to re-enroll all the people they had cut loose as a legal requirement. They’re understandably reluctant to do so, given that it’s still a legal requirement to cut them loose and it’s quite unclear if the administration’s permission to defy the law will soon or later be revoked, and they also have to deal with state insurance commissioners who are already taking a more legalistic view of the matter. At any rate, there’s likely to be a great deal of paperwork involved, and one can only hope that most of it falls on former Obama voters.
If the president is able to get away with changing the law without the messy fuss of actually amending, and if the insurance companies are able to get all those cancelled policies renewed, there is yet another matter of how it will affect the broader scheme of an Obamacare system that had included all those provisions that caused all those cancellations in the first place because it was necessary to get people into more expensive plans to subsidize all the previously uninsured folks who are now being dragged kicking and screaming into the system. The health insurance industry’s trade group, which had cravenly endorsed the whole boondoggle on the promise that it would use governmental force to sign up millions of new customers, is now pointing out the rather obvious fact that somebody’s going to have to pay and it’s likely to be the average consumer. The average consumer was repeatedly promised a $2,500 a year savings by the president, which The New York Times will soon be acknowledging was another “incorrect promise,” and the press will be bad enough that another fix in the law without amending it will be proudly announced.
Perhaps something will come along before the mid-term elections that will be of greater significance than the failure of Obamacare, but we hope not.
— Bud Norman