New internal government data revealed in the Wall Street Journal yesterday shows that the Obama administration hasn’t just fallen short of their goal to enroll 500,000 Americans in private plans in October, they’re not even in the ballpark.
Fewer than 50,000 people nationally have signed up. Oregon’s online system, for example, has yet to enroll a single person. And according to Reuters, ObamaCare has only reached three percent of its enrollment target for 2014 in 12 states.
Considering those figures, it is certainly not a stretch to call the ObamaCare rollout a failure.
It is also clear that with the cancellations and higher premiums we are seeing – despite what the President promised the American public for years before the program launched – this is not just a problem with the website or with the President’s lies.
We need to go back to square one with healthcare. And we need to employ a markedly different approach. The way I see it, the White House needs to do four things.
First, they have to delay the individual mandate for a year as ten Democrat senators, led by Jeanne Shaheen, have requested.
Second, it’s imperative that they delay the penalty for Americans who have not signed up in 2014. New legislation from Democrat Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Mark Kirk which would push back the $95 penalty for the individual mandate to 2015 should be considered.
Third, the White House needs to take down the website. No more of these on-the-go fixes that don’t work. Just take the thing down and fix it. As frustration continues to mount with glitches and technical problems, the situation only gets worse.
Fourth, the White House and Democrats needs to work with the Republicans on some free market fixes. For instance, they should look at allowing across market insurance purchases, tort reform, and some utilization for people to buy private insurance as part of the options offered.
Crucially, and as President Bill Clinton said on Tuesday, Obama should honor his promise that people could keep their plans under ObamaCare if they liked them. “I personally believe, even if it takes a change in the law, that the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they’ve got,” Clinton said.
It looks like the White House heard Clinton loud and clear – and is flailing. Jay Carney said yesterday afternoon that the President agreed with Clinton, despite having fought tooth and nail for weeks against the Republicans advocating exactly the same approach.
To be sure, this is obviously a question of healthcare, but it’s also one of politics. And the ObamaCare rollout – and the Affordable Care Act more generally – has serious implications for American politics, especially on the left.
Poll numbers show that Terry McAuliffe lost three to four percentage points from the final poll averages to his ultimate vote share because of his support of the President’s healthcare bill. Solid majorities in both Virginia and New Jersey were against the healthcare bill. And throughout New York state, with the exception of a big win for DeBlasio in New York City, we are looking at a reprisal of the 2010 election absent some dramatic fix to ObamaCare.
In 2010 I argued with Pat Caddell that it was a disaster for the Democrats to pass healthcare and that, instead, they needed to do something bipartisan. We were excoriated by liberals, but as time has gone on it has become clear that we were right. ObamaCare just doesn’t work.
From all of this, there is a larger question for the Democratic party. The President met with 16 anxious Democratic senators last week to assuage their fears over the ObamaCare site, but also the role the troubled healthcare law will play in upcoming elections. Only five Democratic senators who are up for reelection did not attend the meeting. And with eight or nine vulnerable seats, the future of the Democratic party is very much tied to the President’s healthcare bill.
And I can’t talk about the future of the Democratic party with mention of Hillary Clinton. The failure of this bill is certainly about Hillary, too. If a Democratic majority in the Senate is wiped out, ObamaCare will be a millstone hung around her neck and it will revive concerns about HillaryCare.
Let me be clear, this is not just a concern about a botched rollout. It’s a concern about a botched program that requires a fresh start.
This fresh start is crucial not just for healthcare policy, but for the whole of a party that I have devoted virtually my entire life to. Something must be done.