President Barack Obama recently transformed himself into Billy Mays, the television pitchman who hawked various cleaning products like OxiClean. Standing in the Rose Garden, the president launched a campaign to boost confidence in the Affordable Care Act, which has been plagued with website problems.
Obama conceded the technology “hasn’t worked as smoothly as it was supposed to work” but assured America: “The product is good. … It’s high-quality and it’s affordable.”
As the president delivered his pitch, visions of TV infomercials seemed to float across the screen — there was the ShamWow, the chamois/sponge that holds 12 times its weight in liquid; then the Snuggie, the blanket with sleeves. But as Obama praised his product the words drew attention to its defects.
Obama said the law is “providing seniors with deeper discounts on their prescription medicine.”
In 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law a prescription drug benefit for seniors. It was one of the most sweeping changes to Medicare since it was established in 1965. If changes were required, the prudent course would have been to modify the existing law.
The president said in states where governors and legislatures permit it the new law “provides the opportunity for many Americans to get covered under Medicaid for the first time.”
President Lyndon Johnson signed Medicaid into law in 1965. Again, if changes regarding coverage were needed, the practical course would have been to adjust the existing program.
Obama said, “What we’ve done is essentially create competition where there wasn’t competition before.”
Competition in the marketplace is desirable, but it didn’t take a 2,600 page law and a new layer of government to achieve that goal. For years GOP lawmakers have advocated allowing consumers to buy health insurance across state lines, which would create a national market.
States enact regulations on benefits and consumer protection with respect to health insurance. Even though many providers secure licenses to sell their products in numerous states, the individual health insurance market is generally controlled by a few companies. Eliminating the barrier of state borders would permit consumers to shop for the policy that best meets their needs. Some states are more regulated than others and impose more mandates onto insurance companies. Someone in a heavily regulated location may not need a policy that includes fertility treatments, so he/she should be allowed to investigate what policies are available in other states. The consumer’s purchasing power should not be restricted.
On Oct. 20, the Washington Post reported the administration has recruited more experts from the government and private companies to revise computer codes and improve the website. The administration had three years to prepare the system and spent about $500 million in the process. If the government devoted that many resources to a website that doesn’t perform, how will it deal with health care issues? Expect Washington to address those matters with the same proficiency it brought to the website.
Even if the technology worked flawlessly America remains saddled with a health care law that is expensive and unworkable. But President Obama apparently believes that through the force of his own will things that are broken will be mended. On Oct. 22, the Washington Post reported that days prior to the website’s launch a key part of the system was tested.
“It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously,” the Post said. “Despite the failed test federal health officials plowed ahead.”
This “it doesn’t work but we’re doing it anyway” attitude is not the best way to operate government.
During his Rose Garden remarks, Obama alluded to the fact that, for political reasons, some folks hope the program will fail. Some probably do harbor such thoughts and, if so, shame on them because this is an issue that literally addresses matters of life and death. The truth is Obamacare will flop not because someone wants it to, but because government is incapable of creating a workable, affordable health care system.
On Oct. 21, Kaiser Health Care News reported, “Health plans are sending hundreds of thousands of cancellation letters to people who buy their own coverage, frustrating some customers who want to keep what they have and forcing others to buy more costly policies. The main reason insurers offer is that the policies fall short of what the Affordable Health Care Act requires starting Jan. 1.”
A malfunctioning website is the perfect symbol for this defective law.
Joseph Bell was communications director for former Congressman Rob Simmons, Conn.-2nd District.
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