You know Obamacare is a political disaster when:
• It becomes fodder for late night TV shows;
• The president’s political operation goes door to door scrounging up a few thousand sign-ups;
• The White House and its spinners defend “freeing” people from work while they draw subsidies from working people;
• The White House won’t give a breakdown so that we can know how many of the sign-ups are just people shifting from canceled plans; and
• The president resorts to a series of unilateral fixes, raising constitutional questions.
Aside from the political fallout, we don’t yet know the extent of the health-care and economic consequences, although the Congressional Budget Office tells us we will have the equivalent of 2.5 million fewer workers — a blow to claims the law would promote job-creation and economic growth. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Companies worry about the expense of providing new policies, some hospitals aren’t seeing the influx of new patients they expected to balance new costs and entrepreneurs say they may hire more part-time workers to avoid offering more coverage. The law’s true impact will play out over years. It will depend in part on whether backers overcome serious early setbacks, including crippling glitches in the new online insurance marketplaces and many states’ rejection of the Medicaid expansion. But another obstacle the law faces is pushback from some consumers and industry over the higher costs, complex rules and mandatory requirements it imposes.
For now the law remains unpopular. (“Kaiser Family Foundation poll in January found that 50% of Americans have an unfavorable view of the health law, while 34% see it favorably.”) An insufficient number of younger, healthier people are signed up in the exchanges, which will force premiums up and undercut hospitals and other providers (who were supposed to benefit from increased volume) as well as insurers, who may choose to back out of the exchanges all together.
All of this suggests a GOP Obamacare alternative makes political and policy sense. Several plans are floating around. The House is supposed to come up with one this year. Presented with Obamacare’s fallout, they should be able to say to voters that there is a better alternative. At least then they will have a response when Democrats, down to their last line of defense, argue “Well, what’s your idea?”