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OPINION - The first crack in Obamacare

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU)  Obamacare is a disaster – and it hasn’t even started yet.

Yesterday’s announcement that the employer-mandate to provide health insurance is being delayed from 2014 to 2015 is only the first chink in the law.

The individual-mandate is a much bigger problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if those parts of the law are delayed as well. Insurance exchanges, which are supposed to be up-and-running in October, aren’t ready. Those that are have fewer coverage options and are more expensive than thought.

The fundamental political problem is that too many people remember the promises that were made during the debate two years ago. “If you like your current health insurance, you can keep it.” Well, not exactly. Your employer’s health care costs are going up – a lot – next year. Can you keep it if it’s no longer affordable. What if your employer pays the penalty and drops coverage? What if your job gets cut back to part-time and you’re no longer eligible for insurance? We also remember that our premiums were going to go down by $2,500. For many, many people – especially the young and the healthy – that simply won’t be true. Who’d be happy knowing that they have to pay more so someone else can have coverage?

The politics behind all of this is fascinating. If they can, the Obama administration will try to find a way to blame Republicans. The GOP strategy is simple: push to repeal or defund the law. It’s a challenge that Republican leadership hasn’t been up to so far. Votes have been symbolic. The law is moving forward. The White House strategy is much more complicated. They know the law is unpopular. They also know elections could swing based on pocketbook issues, like voters having to pay more for health insurance.

The White House made a strategic mistake during the debate. They really wanted universal coverage -  a ‘Medicare for all’ program. They should have pushed for it, and the higher taxes to go with it. At least it would have settled the debate instead of trying to implement the series of half-measures we have today. But that failure will be impossible to blame on the GOP; the Dems controlled both houses of congress at the time and it was their own members who were balky.

What we’re left with is an expensive mess and a political time-bomb.

Chris Conley