Obama’s “whatever” approach to Obamacare

According to the Washington Post, state insurance regulators across the country were blindsided by President Obama’s insurance “fix”. Obama didn’t see fit to let them know it might be coming or to find out how they will respond.

The Obama administration’s lack of courtesy and respect for state commissions is hardly surprising. However, its lack of interest seems extraordinary.

Much depends, after all, on how state commissions respond to Obama’s fix. If no commission consents to the revival of non-compliant plans, there is no fix. If every commission consents, and if insurance companies are on board, then the cancellation problem has been fixed for now. At the same time, though, the “adverse selection” problem has badly been exacerbated.

Finally, given some mix of state approvals and disapprovals, perhaps Obama will succeed in significantly decreasing the number of cancellations without doing further structural damage to Obamacare.

Why, then, didn’t Obama consult in advance with state commissioners?

Probably because their input wouldn’t have mattered to him. The approach he has come up with may be a fix; more likely it’s a band aid; perhaps it’s only a fake band aid. Regardless of which it is, Obama considered it his best political option, and that was all that mattered to him.

As Yuval Levin has suggested, Obama isn’t much concerned with health care policy right now. His focus is on holding his political coalition together from one news cycle to the next.

JOHN adds: Exactly. Obama is like a chess player whose position is hopeless and who makes moves that are designed to delay the inevitable, but hold out no hope of victory. His goal appears to be no more than surviving for the next few weeks. Moves like last week’s “fix” may buy a short-term peace–although I doubt it–but they exacerbate Obamacare’s long-term contradictions. As for why Obama didn’t try to get state regulators on board with his “fix,” my guess is that he and his political aides decided on it more or less overnight in response to demands from Congressional Democrats. They did the only “fix” they could think of that would be immediate (albeit ineffective), in that they merely had to mail out a letter. As Paul says, the politics were all that mattered, and, in any event, Obama would never deign to consult someone as lowly as a state insurance regulator–someone who actually knows something about insurance. That would mean leaving the bubble, however briefly.

Responses