As we have shown in issue after issue of this paper, from the first utterance of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, to the current difficulties, this wasn’t a measure that would be completed overnight. Nor would its significant arrival for millions of Americans without any health insurance be a smooth one.
When a similar health care plan was enacted in Massachusetts—and it was a far smaller enterprise—it took months before it was up and running, and even today it’s not without its imperfections.
From its very inception as a possible milestone (and hopefully not a millstone) legacy for President Barack Obama, the ACA was met with stern opposition from the GOP. It is instructive to remember that Obama was attempting to do something that was of Rooseveltian proportions, something that President Bill Clinton could not accomplish.
That the president was able to get a bill passed over a belligerent, bellicose bunch of naysaying Republicans was almost miraculous. And the act was given additional, albeit surprising, sanction from the Supreme Court—though much of this has been lost in the rancor of disappointment from Americans who feel he bungled the deal by not revealing some of the problems that loomed ahead (whether he knew then in advance is another story).
To be sure, he could have used better judgment in his selection of the company that would head the IT charge. Rather, the endeavor was outsourced to a Canadian tech company unprepared for the heavy wave of requests for insurance, and they deserve some consolation because they were given such a short span of time to get it up and functioning. Some 11 million Americans were eager to sign on to healthcare.gov, but unfortunately, only six people were able to register in the first hours of operation.
The other day, Obama, after what must have been a painful mea culpa apology, promised to fix the broken system, and with his employing some savvy techies from Silicon Valley and giving strong marching orders to his aides, there’s a good chance the system will be all right by the end of the month, as promised.
We believe that once things are operating at full capacity, millions of Americans—even those encumbered with terrible policies that do not meet the guidelines of ACA—will begin to see the benefits, particularly those with lower premiums to pay and with comprehensive coverage they didn’t have before.
There are many Americans who blame the president for all the flaws in the system. They hold him personally accountable for all that is wrong. One person in particular texted this newspaper, saying, “Obamacare is the biggest mess this country has ever had … what can we all do to stop it? I know you support him, and I’ve never had any issues with the guy … just another president … but what he’s already done is appalling! I’ve spent a week now on the phone with insurance, and if they were bad before, now it’s a nightmare … I’m sure Obama doesn’t want to hurt people, but he is hurting so many! It’s bad! Really bad! My friends had their policies canceled … I got a pile of letters saying that mine will too.”
That statement was sent in October. In November, we received the following from the same person: “I officially despise Obama! He single-handedly f—d up whatever health system we had and made the worst mess possible. None of my doctors participate in the new plans … the insurance I had doesn’t contract with any of the doctors I have. I hate the guy! … What a scumbag! I paid for my insurance, and now to get less, I have to pay more. He is hurting people, not helping! Anyway, I gotta find ways to cheat the system, [because] I’m not playing that guy’s games.”
While this individual has had many issues, those issues are being exacerbated by the right wing and the conservative media, who are looking for the flaws and trying to exploit them.
Perhaps the president should have been more forthcoming with the possible snags in the program, but much of this was unknown territory, a place no other president had ever been, so even under the best circumstances, there were sure to be unforeseen obstacles. And practically from the very beginning, when a trial run revealed some complex flaws even for the best programmers, the administration should have taken serious notice to remedy the glitch before it became a gulch.
There is still a good chance ACA can live up to all that it promised for the nearly 50 million Americans without any insurance. It clearly isn’t a perfect plan, but it has to be seen as a meaningful step in the right direction. The president may want to consider grandfathering all the policies that are in existence that currently don’t meet the ACA standards so that the promises he made can hold true, that if “you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance.”
That way, a lot of the issues currently facing him would be resolved, and the task at hand would be to make sure the uninsured are insured and those who are not happy with their coverage can get better, more affordable care.
There are promises that the president has made that remain unfulfilled. This cannot be one of them. He must complete this promise to America lest his legacy run aground on the very thing he thought would be his claim to fame and something we would never forget.