Yesterday Speaker John Boehner said the health care law needed to be fixed. Today he said it can’t be fixed. Tomorrow, who knows what he will say. But what we do know is that beneath all the hysterical media coverage of the number of people who have so far signed up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act—106,000 brave or desperate souls—lies one simple fact: Republicans have exactly no interest in making the law work, in helping people who can’t get or can’t afford insurance, some 41 million Americans.
In a better world, that is, in a world where there really is a liberal mainstream press, the reporting on what is happening relative to ObamaCare would be much different. It would start by noting that the disappointing numbers of insurance buyers is not just the result of the troubled federal website, or the normal wait-till-the-last-minute propensity we all have, but the reporting would also point out that the other side has been trying to destroy the law or, failing that, scare people into avoiding it.
Reporters would tell the people that despite the Republican conspiracy to sabotage the law, despite the concerted efforts by the right-wing to encourage people not to sign up, a rather large number of folks—at least at this stage of the process—have nevertheless found their way into the marketplaces and signed up for coverage. Reporters, in my ideal world, might lead their coverage with the fact that almost 400,000 people, some who likely never had insurance in their lives, have signed up for Medicaid.
As I said, that kind of news coverage would be in a better world, not the one we live in.
In any case, President Obama came forward in a news conference today and announced some tweaks to the law. He was responding to media pressure and to pressure from fraidy-cat Democrats, as well as to the genuine concerns some Americans have about the cancellation of their policies.
The President also took all of the blame for the problems associated with the law (“we fumbled the ball” and “I feel deeply responsible”), especially his promise that people could keep their insurance, even if a lot of it is crappy insurance. He absolved congressional Democrats, some who are shaking in their political boots, of any responsibility for that so-called broken promise. Now those Democrats can go home and tell the folks it was all Obama’s fault. Happy now, Dems?
The President announced today that he is trying to make it possible, as I said, for people to keep their mostly crappy insurance policies because the grandfather provision in the law was insufficiently protective of such sub-standard plans:
What we wanted to be able to do is to say to these folks, “You know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan.”
We all know, and the President acknowledged it, that any of the normal disruptions or problems (like rising premiums) in the health insurance market are going to be blamed on the ACA. And if insurance companies don’t take advantage of the fix the President announced today (and how that fix will be implemented is not clear), he will still get slammed on Fox “News” and, sadly, in much of the mainstream press. That’s just the way it is these days. As I write, Andrea Mitchell is reporting that the insurance industry is complaining that what the President proposed won’t work and that the blame is squarely on him. Blah, blah, blah.
Democrats, as is their tendency, usually jump ship when their boat has a leak in it. Some of them in the House were threatening to vote on a Republican-sponsored “fix” to the law that would essentially, as it was really designed to do, undermine it. But President Obama is not jumping ship. “I’m up to the challenge,” he said. He noted, rather importantly:
We’ve got to move forward on this. It took a hundred years for us to even get to the point that we could even start talking about and implementing a law to make sure everybody got health insurance. My pledge to the American people is that we’re going to solve the problems that are there, we’re going to get it right, and the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people.
Will the President’s press conference shut down all the criticism? Of course not. Fox “News” will go on doing segment after segment about disgruntled people who had their policies cancelled while it ignores the millions upon millions who stand to be helped by the law, particularly if Republicans will stop sabotaging it; Fox will go on showing graphics of a non-working website, long after it has been repaired. And the mainstream press will treat all of this like it is a political game, rather than a long-awaited attempt to do something good for Americans, even if doing this particular good is enormously complicated and necessarily problematic.
Finally, I want to make a comment about what Alex Wagner, a reliable progressive on MSNBC, said after the President spoke. She said he “seemed a wounded man today.” No, he didn’t. He seemed like a disappointed but determined man who is trying to do all he can do to guide the ACA through a rather difficult storm, a storm that, unfortunately, is a rather perfect one for Republicans, for those who never before gave a damn about those millions of people who will, hopefully and when all is said and done, get health insurance through ObamaCare.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)