December 20, 2013

The president once has given his media sycophants whiplash and made fools of Senate Democrats. After forcing a shutdown by refusing to delay the individual mandate, beating back Senate Democrats’ attempt to rescue themselves and their constituents and insisting all was fine, the administration has now agreed only a few days before Christmas to allow those to whom the president lied (“You can keep your insurance”) to avoid the mandate and instead buy low-cost catastrophic plans, the ones he has designated as subpar.  Trying spinning that, Obama fans.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the implementation failures of the Affordable Care Act. Playing catch-up with a long way to go, President Barack Obama's new health insurance markets last month picked up the dismal pace of signups, the administration reported Wednesday. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifies on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The Post reports, “The surprise announcement, days before the Dec. 23 deadline for people to choose plans that will begin Jan. 1, triggered an immediate backlash from the health insurance industry and raised fairness questions about a law intended to promote affordable and comprehensive coverage on a widespread basis.” Most Americans have little sympathy for the insurers, who made their own bed by supporting Obamacare, but the unfairness issue is real and unavoidable. If your  insurance was canceled and you dutifully struggled to sign up for coverage through Healthcare.gov, got smacked with sticker shock but paid for new gold-plated insurance, you apparently were a sucker. A whole group of people with canceled plans will get a nice, inexpensive plan just like what they had. Or consider: You were in the target audience for the “pajama boy” ad — a 20-something who didn’t really want insurance and would just as soon have spent the money on a down payment for a house. You toddled over to the screen, hot chocolate in hand, and spent a bunch of money on something you didn’t want. Now there are a bunch of people who get a much cheaper option– so why don’t you?

This is truly make-it-up-as-you-go-along time. It is also a political debacle, another one for Democrats. Brad Dayspring of the National Republican Senatorial Committee tells Right Turn, “It’s a bigger political problem than just the disastrous law.” He argues, “They’ve lied so much that they can’t keep their own spin straight.  These Democrats have zero credibility with voters, absolutely zero.”

Likewise, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor dashed out a statement: “Our entire health care system can’t be fundamentally changed at any given time subject to the random impulses of President Obama. How can anyone make health care decisions today knowing that the law may be unilaterally changed again tomorrow?” Indeed, the move is likely to impede further sign-ups in the exchanges, exactly the opposite of what the administration recognized was essential to the plan’s success. Cantor reminded voters, “Republicans have consistently asked for a one year delay of the mandates for all Americans, and put forward a proposal to allow American families to keep their health plans. The White House actions clearly prove ObamaCare can’t work as designed. It’s time for ObamaCare to be delayed for all.”

All of this, along with previous time extensions for sign-ups, suggests Obamacare is heading for a spectacularly awful January. The president is so obsessed with ameliorating the political problem that he is dismantling his own plan, bit by bit, both undermining its economic viability and aggravating voters and political allies. Is this the handiwork of the triage maven John Podesta? If so, they’ll need a clean-up man to clean up from Podesta.

When Congress returns in January it will be interesting to see whether Senate Democrats stick with the president, who seems bent on damaging their reelection prospects, or if they reluctantly join Republicans in delaying the Obamacare  mess. Republicans’ prediction that Obamacare would collapse under its own weight seemed to Democrats overblown. Now it seems prescient.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.