The White House announced last week that it had reached its initial goal of signing up more than 7 million Americans for the insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act as of the “deadline” — in Washington, of course, a deadline is not quite a deadline — while estimating that 10 million people who didn’t have health insurance before now do.
The news was greeted, as expected, with soaring trumpets from the left and disclaiming tubas from the right. We think both sides are trying way too hard, and as usual for all the wrong reasons. (You can read “politics” into that.).
Indeed, many Democrats have proven themselves all too eager apologists for a program that, if noble in intent, has in practice been enveloped in lies and incompetence and bureaucratic complexity (and we’d wager that many a Democrat — and Republican — on Capitol Hill still cannot tell us what exactly is in ObamaCare, Nancy Pelosi included). Chief among those wishful-thinking cheerleaders would be President Obama, who pronounced that “the debate over repealing this law is over ... The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” He will forgive those who equate that with George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” aircraft carrier sign following the initial invasion of Iraq. Way, way premature.
Indeed, given recent history, it is difficult to know how reliable all the numbers are. And it is fair to ask how many of those 7 million are actually premium-paying customers, and how much progress can be read into that 7 million given that so many were forced into the exchanges by other provisions of the law. Meanwhile, the administration had to practically go to its knees these last few weeks to beg participation.
On the flip side, Republicans have been a bit too enthusiastic in their condemnations to failure. As with any start-up, bugs are inevitable, and ObamaCare is in a better place now than it was just months ago. Conservatives can come off as if they don’t want Americans to have health insurance, and don’t much care about those who don’t. Despite claims to the contrary, there is a fair amount of repeal without replace on their side of the aisle, with Paul Ryan’s recent budget proposal — which imagines a future America without ObamaCare — arguably an example of that.