Robert Ehlert: Time for Democrats to hand over health plan

rehlert@idahostatesman.comNovember 17, 2013 

Let there be no doubt that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 will be the political football of the 2014, 2016 and maybe even 2020 elections.

President Barack Obama made this a certainty this week with his “fumbling-the-football” analogy. But there is something wrong when it comes to extrapolating this analogy: A fumble, especially more than one, means the other team should get the ball and have a chance to run with it.

Obama, the feds and an ever-dwindling contingent of Democrat cheerleaders should not be allowed to have the ball anymore. They have botched the website, broken promises to people who wanted to keep their old insurance and now they are asking us to hang with them through a series of Hail Mary “fix-it” plays.

For instance, this note from Team Obamacare’s Gary Cohen, who sent a directive from U.S. Health and Human Services to members of the insurance industry. It ended with this: “Though this transitional policy was not anticipated by the health insurance issuers when setting rates for 2014, the risk corridor program should help ameliorate unanticipated changes in premium revenue. . .”

To “ameliorate” means to make something bad or unsatisfactory better. Good grief.

Worse yet, Team Obamacare has made a mockery of the word law.

I, for one, accepted the idea that the ACA was law and Republicans deserved no recourse with their government shutdown strategy to repeal or defund it after the fact. Though the GOP is enjoying an “I Told You So” moment, its leadership did not predict or show evidence of any of the specific problems that now beset Obamacare. Or, believe me, they would have said so.

What the president and cohorts are doing with all of the waivers, mid-stream changes and half-baked fixes is throwing good money and human resources after bad. What’s more, this ugly sausage-making process is undermining any concept of what a duly passed law is.

Just as Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius had no grasp of the website function, the feds are now making leftovers out of an uneaten banquet of good faith the American people afforded them.

So, do you reverse course and disappoint the 100,000 people who have signed up? Or, continue down a path that has proved to confuse the other 310 million of us?

I think it is high time to turn this mess over to another team — and I don’t mean the Republicans. Politics rarely sort out the practical needs of a nation.

Maybe we need something on the level of a Simpson-Bowles commission to help sort through this mess and come up with a transitional solution. Maybe the health insurance industry should get a crack at creating a transitional plan that retreats from bureaucracy and makes peace with a temporary business plan. Health care, one-sixth of our economy, can not become the chew toy of competing partisan bickering.

Perhaps I’m throwing darts here. But almost anything would be better than putting this issue back in the hands of a fumbling president and a bumbling Congress.

I am trying to measure the gall of Rep. Nancy Pelosi to propose a “fix” among House Democrats.

I am weary and wary of the House minority leader’s ideas because she fixed us all back in early 2010 when she so recklessly crammed and jammed this rotund, round peg of legislation down the throats of the American people with the tact of a dump truck filling a tea cup.

It was Pelosi who famously told her colleagues that they should pass the ACA so “we can find out what is in it.”

The politicos can have the election season to craft longer-term plans and run those plays up and down the field. For a change, voters can decide their own fate.

Robert Ehlert is the Statesman’s editorial page editor. Contact him at 377-6437, or on Twitter @IDS_HelloIdaho.

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