Obama pledges fix for Obamacare

Obama pledges fix for Obamacare

About that Obamacare thing, never mind.

Actually, it's not quite that bad. But, like snowballs rolling down a hill, problems with Obamacare continue to pick up size and speed.

The result is that President Obama and his top advisers are in retreat after a week of unrelenting bad news.

First, former President Clinton urged Obama to keep his broken promise to allow individual insurance policyholders to keep their policies. Following that bombshell, Obama announced Thursday that he would urge a one-year delay of Obamacare mandates in the individual insurance market, a move that would theoretically allow individuals to keep their old policies. On Friday, the Republican-controlled House approved legislation letting insurance companies sell individual coverage minus Obamacare mandates.

The 261-175 House vote included 39 Democrats voting in favor, a turnabout that signals eroding Democratic support for the Affordable Care Act. Obama has promised to veto the bill. But it's unlikely to reach his desk because still-loyal Senate Democrats say they will block a vote on the proposal.

Absent a legislative change, however, it's unclear what effect Obama's pledge to delay the mandates in the individual insurance market will have. Millions of people have had their policies canceled. A spokesman for a health insurance trade group said companies set 2014 premiums based on the Obamacare mandates and that refiguring new premiums based on different criteria would be a time-consuming and complicated process.

The president's announcement may have eased his political problem with nervous Democrats on Capitol Hill. But his latest dictate has only introduced further confusion into an already politically combustible set of circumstances.

Clearly, Obama is in a tough spot.

The Obamacare website has suffered from systemic failure since it went public Oct. 1, an almost unimaginable display of bureaucratic incompetence. The cancellation of millions of individual policies, however, is no accident. It reflects the legislation's intent to make illegal individual policies that do not conform to the full panoply of services mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Obama's problem, of course, is that he repeatedly assured Americans that they could keep their health care policies as well as their doctors if they wished, a whopper that could go down as one of the most ill-advised fibs in this country's political history.

The predictable result of Obama's serial misrepresentations are sliding poll numbers, not only for him but his fellow Democrats up for re-election in 2014. The president acknowledged Thursday that he needs "to win back some credibility."

It's hard to over-estimate the damage the Obamacare problem poses for Obama's second term.

Early in his second term, President George W. Bush was felled by the twin Cs — credibility and competence — stemming from what proved to be false claims of weapons of mass destruction to justify the war in Iraq and the administration's weak response to Hurricane Katrina.

Now the twin Cs threaten Obama — competence stemming from the website woes and credibility over his false promises — and it's hard to see how he escapes responsibility absent the skills of Harry Houdini.

Because of website bungling, interested consumers are having a hard time buying health insurance. But the bigger problem is that many who've been shopping the Obamacare marketplace have been staggered by the policy costs and deductibles that reflect Obamacare mandates.

President Obama promised the opposite — better policies at cheaper prices. That may be true for the working poor, but not for many middle-income earners. They're paying higher prices for insurance so others can pay little or nothing.

It is on such conundrums that political disasters are made. So it's no surprise that self-interested Democrats on Capitol Hill are no longer willing to tie their fortunes to President Obama and his signature legislative program.

Previous to the launch of Obamacare, Democrats uniformally touted its virtues. They blithely dismissed critics' concerns, contending all would be well.

After the disastrous launch of the government website, they clung to the notion that computer "glitches" would be promptly fixed. Illinois' Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin, speaking locally, boldly declared that Obamacare was great government policy and insisted its supporters had nothing to apologize for.

Those declarations are no longer heard. The Obamacare rollout has been a rolling disaster that has spread anger and frustration among those it was supposed to help.

There's no reason to doubt President Obama's claim that the administration is working to fix the problems; the real issue is whether they're fixable.

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