Obamacare: Mismanagement or Worse?

Posted on November 15, 2013 by

I’ve been arguing for years that we have to stand by Barack Obama even when we’re uncomfortable with his policies and disappointed by his performance.

Because no modern president has ever faced such a vile and hateful opposition; and that the republicans would happily burn down this country to see Obama fail.

But for the past couple of weeks, I can’t contain my anger at the president for giving his enemies exactly what they wanted.

Who knows why the ACA is such a mess? Proponents of single payer and a public option warned about the contours of Obamacare but the administration insisted that this system could work.

I suppose it’s possible that the website will be repaired and the recently-announced adjustments will solve some problems.

But President Obama’s plunging credibility and standing may have already doomed our chances to take back the House next year.

Here’s what baffles us:

Everyone knew that the president’s opponents wanted to take him down over health care reform.  Was this disaster simply a matter of mismanagement at the white house and HHS or some character flaw at the top which we don’t want to see?

Comments (7)


  1. Ben says:

    The way I see it is: what we have to do now is go all out to elect a better Congress next year. At this point a “better” Congress means one with more Dems, and, in particular, more progressive Dems.
    Yeah, I hope they get the website fixed so the damage isn’t too bad. The President was looking pretty good after he stood firm during the shutdown. It’s hard to say right now which will have the more lasting effect: 1) the shutdown, which isolated and exposed the Tea Party and their right wing allies, or 2) the botched healthcare roll out, which, as you suggest, is giving the right wingers exactly what they hoped would happen when they were working to screw up the health care law to begin with. It’s too late to be worrying about character flaws at the top or what the President and his close advisers really want. The issue now is: what do the American people, the 99% really want and need and can they/we organize to work for it?

  2. William Voegeli says:

    “Was this disaster simply a matter of mismanagement at the white house and HHS or some character flaw at the top which we don’t want to see?” Why do we have to choose? It could be both.

    And it could be other things, too. The skill set that makes someone a good presidential candidate may not have much overlap with the skill set that makes someone a good president, which – if so – is a big problem for the republic.

    And it could be that the president said, “If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan. Period.” for a reason. (He meant to say, “If you like your health care plan you can keep your health care plan. Footnote.”) The reason is that without that categorical promise the ACA would not have been enacted. But an ACA that really adhered to that categorical promise is unworkable, as its defenders now, finally, are telling us.

    This suggests another overlap problem, between what liberals want to do in terms of policy, and what they’re politically able to do honestly. Telling lies in 2009 and ’10, then coming up with excuses in 2013 is not an encouraging template.

  3. John Connolly says:

    Well, the fact is the President didn’t lie.

    It just never occurred to him that given the range of positive cheaper alternative health plans made available through the ACA, anyone would actually CHOOSE to keep an inferior one!

    In this case Obama’s fatal flaw was simply being rational.
    Clearly a Big Mistake in Tea Party World America.

    And of course since the WebSite rollout sucked, millions of folks couldn’t actually SEE ANY ALTERNATIVE PLANS AT ALL!

    The botched rollout of the WebSite is pretty unforgivable.

    The “Liberal” media’s rabid attack-dog headline treatment of the ACA’s problems seems indistinguishable from Rightist propaganda.

    It seems only our Pals at MSNBC are really trying to balance the story by pointing out a similar slow-start to Romney-Care in Massachusetts a decade ago … 123 people signed up in the first month … full participation took three years, etc.

    But, even given the horrific self-inflicted wound of the bungled WebSite, the real, central flaw in Obamacare, is the feckless, callous and subversive decision by dozens of Republican-led state governments which refused to create state-based exchanges, throwing millions of people onto a Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Federal ACA program.

    EVERY state that has created a local exchange has been successful — some more than others, but the more contained scale of product and prices, and more manageable applicant-numbers have not crashed the state systems.

    Far more effective than the House Republicans’ Repeal-a-Thon, the simple refusal to participate on the part of Republican Governors and Legislators clearly overloaded the intake system and helped crash the ACA rollout.

    The same cynical intransigence has robbed millions of poorer Americans of healthcare via the ACA’s Medicaid component — another element that President Obama and his design team never thought ANY state government would pass up … Federally paid insurance for millions at practically zero cost to the state government!

    Finally, with all the hub-bub, broo-ha-ha and hysteria around the botched roll-out, another central fact is being ignored by most of the media … the individual market for health insurance covers only about 5% of the public … about 15,000,000 people — a significant number to be sure … but at least 30,000,000 other Americans will be eligible and covered by ACA as it continues to enroll people who are not in the individual market.

    AND, while we’ve all seen and heard the exemplar horror-stories of individuals here or there who are facing higher premiums for ACA-compliant health care plans … there are millions of those 15,000,000 who will get better coverage for less money than they are paying now … and who AREN’T complaining to the front page of the New York or Washington Times or Fox News.

    I’ve complained aplenty about President Obama’s superb campaign machinery and awful governance bumbling. And his mealy-mouthed responses to racist Republican invective and fascist-lite Tea Party subversion.

    I was SO pleased when he took the offensive, and the high road in standing up to the Rightist government shut-down and debt-crisis hostage-taking.

    And I’m crushed anew that Obama has given back that noble victory and even more to the Right in his Oh-So-Reasonable apologetics for one crappy WebSite, aided and abetted by the parade of mewling Democrats wetting their pants in fear of 2014.

    The only Brief I hold for the ACA is that it’s WAY better than the lousy health care insurance universe we’ve suffered for the last 100 years.
    I hate the Insurance Companies; I hate capitalist-based health care; I hate health-care criminals like Florida Governor Rick Scott, former CEO of criminal-enterprise United Health, fined $100,000,000 for Medicare fraud.
    Seize their assets; send their Principals and their Bankers all to jail.

    We should have Single-Payer of course.

    And the President should shut-up and stop apologizing to a couple of whiners who have to pay more for their health care.
    He needs to fix the WebSite, sign-up a couple of million newly-insured Americans, and start turning out TV and Web-Ad Testimonials FEATURING HAPPY AMERICANS PROCLAIMING HOW COOL IT IS TO FINALLY HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE!

    And Congressional Dems need to go to shut-up, go to the Cloak Room and change their Diapers.
    And, did I say SHUT-UP!?!
    Shut up. And FIGHT.

    Sharon Angle wasn’t arrested when she suggested that “we need some of those 2nd Amendment remedies” against her ideological opponents … I wonder if I would be?

    John Connolly

  4. Glen Merzer says:

    Maybe the website will be fixed. Maybe things will get a little bit better. But the true lesson, which nobody on the left wants to learn, and nobody in the media will even discuss, is that “universal health insurance” is not a particularly progressive goal, and should never have been prioritized. When we had a Democratic Congress in the first two years of Obama’s term, why didn’t we enact truly progessive legislation? Like, say, raising the minimum wage. Ending breaks for the oil companies. Ending farm subsidies. Raising estate taxes. A stimulus program where all the money goes to jobs and not a third to tax breaks. Immigration reform. Or at least the Dream Act.
    Why is it a progressive goal to force young healthy people to overpay for health insurance to try to balance out the costs of the old and/or sick? Do young people not have enough economic challenges as it is? Why is it a progressive goal to have health insurance that is not even health underwritten for smoking? Why is it a progressive goal to force everyone to buy a product from private companies? Why is it a progressive goal to enact a policy that offends so many millions of Americans that the result is a Tea Party-controlled Congress?
    I’ve heard Michael Moore say that 50,000 Americans lose their lives every year for lack of medical care. I doubt it’s that many, but even if it is, look up “iatrogenenis” on Wikipedia and you’ll find: “In the United States an estimated 225,000 deaths per year have iatrogenic causes, with only heart disease and cancer causing more deaths.” Iatrogenesis of course means “originating from a physician.” So even if Michael Moore is right, apparently we have at least 4 times as many people being killed by doctors as losing their lives from lack of care. And that doesn’t begin to include the hundreds of thousands whose lives are damaged by physicians with unnecessary meds and botched operations and the rest.
    Whether doctors kill or save more people is an open question, probably it’s about a wash, but in any study of health outcomes, access to medical care ranks near the bottom. Diet and lifestyle are the determining factors, a hundred times more significant than access to medical care.
    So what would be the progressive agenda? It would be caring more about health than health insurance. It would be ending farm subsidies to animal agriculture, so that the price of a cheeseburger would go to fifty dollars. We are subsidizing the dairy industry and the meat industry, which are the industries responsible for the fact that we are the fattest, sickest population ever to walk the earth. Going to a doctor won’t save you if you’re eating meat and chicken and milk and cheese and drinking soda and alcohol and smoking.
    And are we serious about the defining issue of our time, climate change? If we are, we ought to heed the lesson of the U.N. report (Livestock’s Long Shadow): the leading cause of greenhouse gases is animal agriculture. We are destroying the planet for our taste for flesh.
    The real progressive goal shouldn’t be universal health insurance. I’ve had health insurance all my life and it’s a pain in the ass. I don’t go to doctors or take any meds because I don’t eat dead animals. The real progressive goal should be ending animal agriculture.
    Oh, and one more thing. Do candidate promises mean absolutely nothing? When Barack ran against Hillary, she was for the mandate; he was against it. He asked her how she would enforce it. She always refused to say. This came up in every debate. He was right; she was wrong; then he got elected and enacted her plan. That was a betrayal–and nobody calls him on it. She had already cost us the Congress in ’94 with her stupid universal health insurance initiative, and then we lost it again in 2010 because of his. We may face further losses in 2014 if they don’t get the damned website fixed. How many times do we have to suffer for this pointless goal of sending more people to doctors who don’t even get an hour of nutrition education in medical school, and therefore may know a lot about disease but know practically nothing about health?
    Look, there were injustices in the pre-Obamacare health insurance universe. They were remarkably simple to fix. The pre-existing condition dilemma? Easy: Medicare for the Declined. If a carrier declines you, the gov’t should offer you a plan (as it has between 2012-2014 under Obamacare). Beyond that, simply generate revenues (by, say, ending farm subsidies), and use that revenue to fund a tax credit for the purchase of health insurance for people below a certain income bracket. It wouldn’t get us to universal coverage, but then neither will Obamacare, and it would have helped millions get coverage. But that would have been easy and simple and popular and the Democrats would still control the House and we might have immigration reform and we might be reinvesting in infrastructure and creating jobs. So I guess that wasn’t on the table.

  5. Rod Bradley says:

    As to the “character flaw” that has dashed all hope of anything significant coming out of this presidency, I would suggest that it was evident when the president accepted the Nobel Peace laureate. If he had moral gravitas or even a core vision, he would have elegantly declined in favor of the more deserving.

    I don’t mean to suggest the president isn’t a decent man. He is simply neither as wise nor strong as we would wish. To lead, you need to have an inner core and need to know what you stand for beyond simply wanting not to offend and everything to be okay. Compromising with insane and destructive policies is not leadership.

    It is understandable that we don’t want to admit President Obama is a mediocre leader with an elegant face. Progressives especially want the first president of African descent to be a success. Many apologize for this lack of leadership, vision, and political naivete and point out never has anyone faced such opposition — which of course is not the case. Of course no one has faced the disguised racial animus of the tea party folks and alas, many other republicans. But a mark of leadership is how you stand up to blatant insanity. Call it what it is and move on. It isn’t easy. It requires great courage and great depth of character.

    If mediocrity and lack of wisdom are character flaws in a leader, then those are Barak Obama’s. His lie re the ACA was propelled, not by greed or dishonesty, but by weakness and a desire to “sell” himself and his horribly compromised plan, a plan drawn up by an entity that came out of the Reagan revolution, the Heritage Foundation.

    I like the man. He is decent. But he is in over his head. And has surrounded himself with mediocrity. Perhaps because he doesn’t recognize it as such and simply feels more comfortable with people who won’t rock the boat or urge him in directions he fears. (Clinton did this as well.)

    I think the president so wanted to succeed with health care, that he betrayed the country and himself by not taking care of things that John and Glenn suggested. Primarily putting the financial house in order and taking advantage of the crisis to reset our economy in a more equitable and sustainable direction, instead of plowing full steam ahead with the rich getting richer, the big getting bigger. But instead of “welcoming their hate” like FDR and leading the congress, he gave a professorial lecture to Wall Street saying, come on guys, get rich but be nice. Not the act of a determined leader, but a man who was afraid to do what really needed to be done — or simply didn’t see what needed to be done. So five years later, we’re right back where we are. An illusionary weak economy except for the super rich money shufflers who call themselves job creators.

    A man of vision would know that a happier nation is a healthier nation, and that the more equitable the wealth is shared, the less stress and the less physical and mental illness. This would truly lower health care costs, along with a basic single payer health plan. That every developed nation in the world already has.

  6. Scott Zwartz says:

    The elected we elected in 2008 was not the Obama who moved into the White House. (No, this is not a paranoid conspiracy. I know it was the same human being.)

    The moment Obama appointed Timmy Geithner to be sec of Treasury, I knew we had an economic disaster in the making. It turns out that both Geithner and Obama follow some bizarre, reactionary economic theory which was discredited by the Panic of 1907, if not long before. Pres. Teddy Roosevelt would have gotten out his Big Stick and whooped Obama up side of the head.

    Where Obama got the insane idea that the Deficit was a problem is a greater mystery than the whereabouts of Judge Crater. [It took 75 years but we finally found out the judge's whereabouts, i.e. beneath the boardwalk at Coney Island.]

    By June 2010, it was clear that the Dems who wanted to win in Congress had to Dump Obama or the Dems would lose big time to the GOP tea baggers. The foolish Dems stuck with Obama and we have the current mess, and Obama still clings to his reactionary economic theory that lowering The Deficit is the most important economic objective.

    Had Dems started an abandoned Obama movement, we would ahve held on to the house and the Senate so that progressive bills would be passed. Then, the Dems would dare reactionary Obama to veto Dem legislation.

    Progressive legislation would have ended the recession and Obama, reactionary as he is in economics, would have been re-elected.

    The Dems need to return to Keynes and Progressive ideas and defend them. Obama only trashes progressive economics in favor of lowering the Deficit in order to keep people poor and Wall Street’s share of the wealth increasing.

    The Dumb Dems will turn to the Right aping tea bagger idiocy thereby legitimize reactionary economics and giving the right wing support to slash medicare, social security, unemployment insurance, and end the move towards universal health care.

    In brief, the Dems had the chance to move in June 2010, but they blew it.

  7. BobVedari says:

    Not to worry, comrade… The Messiah’s plan to “fundamentally transform America” and turn us into the United Soviet Socialist Republic of Amerika is well under way. He has shown us the way – governance by executive order and whim. Congress will soon be irrelevant, the Supreme Court will be transformed into a rubber stamp, conservatives like me will be rounded up and shot, and you’ll get to live in your nice little echo chamber. Celebrate, comrade. Celebrate.

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