Obamacare off to sickly start
President Obama has reluctantly confirmed what everyone already knows — the Affordable Care Act is off to a disastrous start.
After several weeks of sugarcoating the problems surrounding the rollout of Obamacare, President Obama Monday acknowledged "there's no sugarcoating it."
"Nobody is more frustrated than I am," said the president, who indicated that a small army of computer geeks will try to unwind the technical problems that have swamped many of the 19 million people (a White House number) who have visited the HealthCare.gov site since it went public Oct. 1.
This fiasco has done little to inspire confidence in government, and heaven knows the cost of fixing it. Nonetheless, Obama continued to tout his national health insurance plan as a great advance that will dramatically improve the lives of all Americans, whether they were previously insured or not.
"I want people to have access to this great product," he said, which he describes as an array of health insurance options that are "working just fine."
Obama deserves credit as a first-rate cheerleader for his signature legislative achievement. But it remains to be seen if it's really the great product that he claims.
Consumers will decide that, and they must sign up in sufficient numbers to maintain the program's financial viability.
The day before Obama spoke, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin visited Champaign-Urbana and addressed local Democrats about the problems surrounding the rollout.
"Do not apologize for it. (Obamacare) is a move in the right direction for America," he said.
Why would local residents, Democrats or not, apologize for Obamacare? They didn't have anything to do with passing or implementing it.
It's a different story altogether for Durbin. He's one of the law's greatest champions, and the jury is out on the wisdom of its passage.
Contrary to Durbin's claim, Obamacare is only a "step in the right direction" if it works. He, no doubt, wants credit for good intentions, but that's not good enough.
Any program that costs many, many billions of dollars, ensnares all Americans in its web and causes severe dislocation and confusion in the process better have the predicted results.
The legislation is directed at providing health insurance for people who either didn't have it or couldn't get it. That's a serious problem, one that could have been addressed without creating a complicated, confusing, bureaucratic leviathan.
White House officials have estimated 7 million people will sign up for Obamacare through the various federal and state health exchanges in its first year. They say they don't know how many have signed up so far, a statement that is hard to accept at face value.
The big question, however, is how many younger, healthier people sign up because they're the ones who are expected to cost insurers less so older, sicker people can run up higher costs. Those who don't sign up will be required to pay a fine for not doing so, but the fines are substantially less than what their health insurance premiums would be.
Since most people act in their own financial interests, the sign-up rate for young people poses a huge potential problem.
That, of course, assumes that all people — young and old — actually can sign up. The federal exchange so far has largely prevented people from doing so. That's why Obama is miffed.
For several weeks he and various media outlets have repeatedly characterized the problems surrounding the rollout as "glitches," defined as a "mishap" or a "malfunction."
What people have seen and experienced, however, is near total system failure that has prevented the curious from getting past step one into the real guts of Obamacare — quality of health coverage, costs and deductibles.
It is on that ground that Obamacare will stand or fall — assuming people ever get there.