woody zimmerman 118 2007The latest buzz coming from inside the Beltway is that Democratic Congress-persons plan to run against the Affordable Health Care Act in the fall elections, on the two-edged premise that (1) the numerous changes made by President Obama have given the law no resemblance to the signature legislation they enacted, and (2) that they will seriously get down to the business of “fixing” the law if voters will just put them and their party back in charge of the House and Senate. (Yes! Of course, they’ll fix it. Who could doubt it?)

Democrats, of course, know that many of their constituents are know-nothings who typically don’t connect the country’s economic mess with the Democrats they’ve been electing to bring them endless goodies. In earlier articles I called this faction The Moron Vote – for which I was roundly chastised by professional colleagues, some family members, and even former friends. They said I was being mean. (Belief in messiahs – even political ones – dies hard.)

Will Democrats be able to depend, once again, on the votes of people too dull to see that it is highly unlikely that the mental midgets who gave them Obamacare will actually correct their signature law, if re-elected? Only The Almighty knows if the Moron Vote will come through for them. Me? I have my doubts that Dems will be able to put this story over on voters, again, after they have already been caught in so many whoppers about the law. In the Peanuts cartoon, Lucy pulls the football away from the hapless Charlie Brown, time after time. But in real life, even the most gullible people can only be had so many times. Nevertheless, it was H. L. Mencken who famously said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public…”

Democrat representatives and senators do have a point, of course, about the AHCA bearing little resemblance to what they passed in those halcyon days of 2010, when Mr. Obama swept on like a human whirlwind, and Democrats bestrode the land like the Colossus of Rhodes. But it is not necessarily the only point to be made. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it. Well, now we know. Consequently, over the past year Mr. Obama has rampaged through the law like Christ cleansing the temple – although there were some small differences between the two cleansings. The New Testament says Jesus overturned the tables of the temple’s money-changers while declaiming, “My house shall be called a House of Prayer for all people, but you have made it a den of robbers!” Mr. Obama, on the other hand, seems to be saying, ‘The people can pray for deliverance from the robbers spawned by the AHCA, but lottsa luck …’ (with apologies to St. Matthew).

Democrats’ difficulty is that they have been (at least silently) applauding Mr. Obama’s unilateral modifications to the law because the provisions he has changed would have ruined them in the November elections, if allowed to stand. Thus, Democratic senators and representatives are playing both sides of the street – decrying Mr. Obama’s changes to the law (18 by my count) on one hand, and benefitting from them, politically, on the other hand. It is sophistry at its best.

For my readers’ convenience I have reproduced Washington Post writer Amy Goldstein’s chronological compilation of the changes made to the law so far, as listed in her article of March 8, 2014*:

2013

  1. Feb. 7: One-year delay, until 2015, for the start of a Basic Health Program, under which states may hire private health plans to insure some lower-income residents who do not qualify for Medicaid.
  2. April 2: One-year delay, until 2015, for requirement that small-business insurance marketplaces, known as SHOPs, must offer a choice of at least two health plans.
  3. July 2: One-year delay, until 2015, for requirement that employers with at least 50 workers offer insurance to their full-time workers, or pay a penalty.
  4. July 5: One-year delay, until 2015, for federal scrutiny of the income of applicants who, when applying for a federal subsidy, list an amount that differs too much from what they reported on their tax returns.
  5. July 5: One-year delay for requirement that state-run insurance exchanges verify whether people applying for federal subsidies actually qualify for the help — or whether they are ineligible because they could get insurance through a job.
  6. Sept. 26: (Four days before HealthCare.gov, the federal insurance marketplace, opened.) One-month delay, until Nov. 1, for the start of online enrollment in small-business SHOPs.
  7. Oct. 23: Six-week delay for the time by which most Americans will be required to have insurance, giving people until March 31, instead of Feb. 15, to buy a health plan and avoid the risk of a government fine.
  8. Nov. 14: President Obama says states may have latitude to let people renew for one more year insurance policies that would otherwise be canceled as of Jan. 1 because they do not include all of the benefits required under the health-care law.
  9. Nov. 21: Six-week delay for the start of the sign-up period to get coverage for 2015, postponing the first day of open enrollment from Oct. 1, 2014, to Nov. 15.
  10. Nov. 22: Extension of deadline to sign up for coverage that takes effect Jan. 1 by eight days, from Dec. 15 to Dec. 23.
  11. Nov. 27: Delays for another year, until November 2014, online enrollment in small-business SHOPs, although small businesses can now get coverage directly from an insurer or an insurance agent or broker.
  12. Dec. 12: Several changes to give consumers more time to pay for the coverage that will start Jan. 1: directing insurers to give people until Dec. 31 to pay their first month’s insurance premiums and urging the industry to provide additional flexibility. Also lets states continue through January so-called high-risk pools — special insurance for people with illnesses that have made it difficult for them to get private insurance in the past.
  13. Dec. 19: Policy change that allows consumers who have received notices that their health plans are being canceled because they do not include benefits that will be required as of Jan. 1 two options for 2014: buy catastrophic — that is, bare-bones — insurance or entirely avoid the mandate that most Americans have health insurance.
  14. Dec. 23: Computer system for HealthCare.gov is reset, with no public announcement, to give people one more day to sign up for a health plan in time for coverage to start Jan. 1.

2014

  1. Jan 14: Second extension of high-risk pools, until mid-March.
  2. Feb. 10: Second delay, until 2016, for requirement that employers with at least 50 workers must offer insurance to their full-time workers, or pay a penalty.
  3. Feb. 27: Policy change to allow consumers to get federal subsidies if they buy health plans outside the new insurance marketplaces, to prevent people from being stranded without coverage because several state-run exchanges are still riddled with technical defects.
  4. March 5: Second extension to give states latitude for two more years to let people renew insurance policies that fail to meet the law’s benefits standards, so that consumers may buy such policies until October 2016 and keep them for one year after that.

These changes were achieved via Mr. Obama’s Executive Orders. One can hardly fail to note that their clear objective is to delay various distressing provisions of the law out beyond the congressional elections of November 2014. Obviously, the strategy intends to deceive enough voters about the law’s deleterious effects on them until the elections are safely past – hopefully with the happy result of getting enough Democrats elected to hold the Senate and perhaps regain some lost ground in the House. Once the elections are over, Democrats can drop Obamacare’s full weight on hapless low-info voters who won’t know what hit them. Dems clearly have no intention of making permanent fixes to the law. If they did, they would have enacted them by now, with the cheerful help of House Republicans. All of Mr. Obama’s modifications have been strictly temporary – meant only to protect his party until the elections are over.

Will the strategy work? No one knows, but early signs and portents suggest that Democrats have some reason to fear that it will not. During this past week, a special election was held in Florida to fill the seat recently vacated by the death of U. S. Representative Bill Young, a Republican who had represented District 13 for over 40 years. President Obama had carried the district in both 2008 and 2012, giving Democrats confidence that they could easily put the vacant seat in their column. To assure a win they imported Alex Sink, an attractive woman who ran a strong (but losing) campaign for governor against Rick Scott in 2010. Although not a resident of the district, Ms. Sink was considered a near shoo-in for the seat, running against the lackluster Republican David Jolly. As icing on the cake, Libertarian Lucas Overby joined the contest. He was widely expected to draw enough votes away from Mr. Jolly to give the election to Ms. Sink.

Ms. Sink had not helped pass the AHCA, but she declined to run directly against the unpopular law. Instead, she promised to “mend the law, not end it.” Democratic strategists believed this “centrist” position would ingratiate her with the party’s base, while assuring Obamacare critics that she could be trusted to help right the landmark law’s floundering ship.

As it turned out, however, it was Ms. Sink who was sunk. The final tally showed Mr. Jolly with 48.5% of the vote; Ms. Sink with 46.7%; and Mr. Overby with 4.8%. Although Democrat cheerleaders made much of the fact that Ms. Sink had come closer to taking the District 13 seat than any Democrat in the last 40 years, they delicately failed to mention the significant effect Mr. Overby’s candidacy had on the final tally. Without him in the race, Mr. Jolly would have won, convincingly, with over 53% of the vote. Clearly, the new story that Democrats would “fix” the AHCA’s flaws did not sell – even to a district that bought Barack H. Obama in two elections.

The jury will not return its full verdict until November: on Obamacare; on the new fix-it strategy; and on Dems’ heroic attempt to defy gravity by trying to deceive low-information voters, yet again, about how the law will affect them. Maybe it will work, thus giving the Party of the Donkey an historic victory. But if it doesn’t, they are certain to blame George Bush.

*******

* Please see Ms. Goldstein’s original article at http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/timeline-of-major-change-to-the-affordable-care-act/2014/03/08/10859e88-a630-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html