Let’s give Congressman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and former president Bill Clinton some credit for working in tandem to force the president’s hand on his pledge to let people keep their health insurance plans — even if they didn’t realize they had combined forces. Upton went high, Clinton went low and President Obama found himself with no good options. The White House has been worried about Democratic defections to the “Keep Your Health Plan Act,” which was introduced by Upton, the Republican chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Oct. 28 and is headed to the House floor for a vote on Friday. Then on Tuesday, Clinton made the president’s refusal to allow Americans to “keep their health insurance plans if they liked them” untenable.
The president’s hasty, babbling press conference was at least partially driven by the reality of the House vote on the Upton bill. And it doesn’t appear the White House had time to have surrogates ready to explain the bothersome details of what the president proposed today. So did the president solve a problem or just buy himself some time — or did he do neither?
The immediate reaction from the insurance industry is that the president’s declaration that “insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be cancelled into 2014” is a farce and unrealistic in the real insurance market. Among the chattering class and Democratic political leaders, his “fix” appeared to cause more confusion than relief. Upton’s bill could still attract some Democrats in the House, and movement away from the president among Democrats in the Senate may slow down somewhat, but nobody thinks the Obamacare train wreck has come to a halt. The cars are still flipping in the air.
It will take a little while, but soon we’ll be hearing from the lawyers and scholars who will weigh in on whether or not the president can call an audible and amend the law in this hurried, capricious way. No less than former DNC Chairman Howard Dean has already suggested that the president does not have the authority to make this change. President Obama has granted a lot of Obamacare waivers, delayed the employer mandate, and now, under pressure, he has offered this “fix.” Does anybody think the Obamacare rules and provisions are settled?
No doubt, Obama didn’t want to do this today, but he did yield to reality. Perhaps that’s a good sign in the short term, but the opponents of Obamacare don’t believe the president settled anything today.
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