Obamacare Death Spiral Watch

So the New York Times has got round to noticing what I pointed out last week in Forbes: the political parallels between Obamacare and the 1989 repeal of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act:

Angry Americans voice outrage at being asked to pay more for health coverage. Lawmakers and the White House say the public just doesn’t appreciate the benefits of the new health law. Opponents clamor for repeal before the program fully kicks in.

The year was 1989, and the law was the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act, which was supposed to protect older Americans from bankruptcy due to medical bills. Instead it became a catastrophe for Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who learned the hard way that many older Americans did not want to be helped in that particular way.

One obvious difference here is that Obamacare is a political catastrophe only for Democrats.  But let us continue:

The tortured history of the catastrophic-care law is a cautionary tale in the context of the struggle over the new health law, the Affordable Care Act. It illustrates the political and policy hazards of presenting sweeping health system changes to consumers who might not be prepared for them. And it provides a rare example of lawmakers who were willing to jettison a big piece of social policy legislation when the political risks became too grave.

Meanwhile, Robert Kuttner, a very ideological liberal and co-editor of the American Prospect, thinks Obamacare is an unmitigated disaster for Democrats, and moreover admits what the rest of us understood from before 2008—that Obama is a terrible president:

The colossal mess that Obamacare has become reflects both the character of the legislation and that of the president who sponsored it.

The Affordable Care Act, as a government mandate for people to purchase private insurance with an array of possible subsidies, had too many moving parts. It was an accident waiting to happen. . .

There is no easy fix for this mess. Delaying its effective date will only raise premiums across the board next year because insurance companies have set their prices on the assumption that millions of new, younger subscribers will sign up.

The president has lost control of both the narrative and the politics. The Republicans, who were unable to destroy Obamacare by holding the budget hostage, are now enjoying watching it fall of its own weight. . .

The character of the legislation is only half the story. The other half is the character of the president.

This law, after all, is Obama’s signature initiative. It has been on the books since March 2010, with a full implementation date of 2014. An engaged chief executive would have been demanding frequent and detailed progress reports from his team. He would have gotten early warnings about possible glitches. But this president is tragically and inexcusably hands-off.

Finally, Bruce Barcott, a free lance liberal who drinks extra helpings of environmentalist Kool Aid (I’ve smacked him around a couple of times over the years for his shoddy journalism), is “seething at the president I helped elect,” telling his own Obamacare story in the NY Observer:

We received the letter in the mail a couple months ago. The good people at Regence Bluecross Blueshield were pleased to inform us that due to Obamacare our current low-monthly premium, comically-high deductible medical policy would no longer exist come January 1, 2014. Pleased, because a new and better plan would be offered in its place. Old monthly premium: $578 for a family of four (non-smoking, helmet-wearing, and paternally snipped). New premium: $1,123. A 94% increase. . .

For the past 15 years my wife and I have made our living as freelance writers. . .  As such, our health insurance is our own concern. Over the years we’ve held on to our coverage by letting our co-pay and deductible rise and our covered procedures fall. You may be aware that the three-tiered state exchange policies are labeled Gold, Silver, and Bronze, reflecting their price and level of coverage. If our policy still existed it would fall into the column of Wood.

But Wood we had—and Wood we liked.

No more. O.K., into the state exchange we go. I voted for it.

Responses