Monday, November 11, 2013

The ObamaCare Dozen

The Democrats who voted for the debacle are now scrambling for cover.

The torrents of Affordable Care Act monsoon season aren't letting up, so Democrats are scrambling to help the victims: namely, their own careers. The Senators up for re-election in competitive states in 2014 are starting to panic, though they still aren't offering solutions for anything other than their own growing political jeopardy.

Fifteen Senate Democrats plus Colorado's Michael Bennet who chairs the Senatorial Campaign Committee sat down at the White House Wednesday, and they want all and sundry to know that they let President Obama have it. Alaska's Mark Begich put out a statement saying he chewed out the big cheese for "absolutely unacceptable" mismanagement and "an understandable crisis in confidence." He must have drafted it in advance.

Oregon's Jeff Merkley chimed in to report that even after the two-hour encounter session that was not on the public schedule, he was still "very frustrated" and "I remain deeply convinced that this is a 'show-me' moment." Asked by Politico if Democrats were losing credibility, an anonymous attendee said, "You got to have it, to lose it."

Mr. Obama held their hands and told them not to worry. But that's also what he, Bill Clinton and other horse whisperers said in 2010. The "moderates" who made the Nancy Pelosi majority went on to be wiped out in the largest turnover of House seats since 1938.

Mr. Obama then comforted the party regulars that all would be well once the exchanges launched. That day arrived, sort of, since the website doesn't work. He's now urging Democrats to keep calm because the public will love it once the subsidies start to roll out. Yet insurance is being cancelled, premiums are surging and patients like Edie Sundby can't keep their doctors.

Meanwhile, the Salesman in Chief has been exposed for his fraudulent promises. Before October Mr. Obama's rhetoric seemed desperate like Shelly Levene in "Glengarry Glen Ross," repeating discredited assurances that few believed. Now it seems somewhat sinister as he tries to falsify his history of false claims.

All of which has the ObamaCare Dozen—the Democrats who each cast the decisive 60th vote and are running for re-election in 2014—fleeing for political cover. We offer a list of the dozen nearby, and they're right to worry that voters might punish ObamaCare's implementation as they did its passage. But so far the 12 are trying to pull off nothing more than confidence tricks.

New Hampshire's Jeanne Shaheen is leading a coalition asking for an unspecified extension of ObamaCare's March 15 enrollment deadline. Mr. Begich (Alaska), Mark Pryor (Arkansas) and Mark Udall (Colorado) are among those on this bus, though Ms. Shaheen has special cause for alarm given that New Hampshire's joint state-federal exchange enlisted only a single insurer, whose narrow network excludes 10 of the state's 26 acute-care hospitals.

But her idea would merely draw out the technical agony, and the exchange premiums are based on assumptions of a full year of coverage. Premiums may not cover claims if people delay or forgo signing up in 2014, and then rates will spike the next year. All of this would also give the exchanges a stigma as untrustworthy, more so than even Health and Human Services incompetence.

The Shaheen plan also won't un-terminate insurance or help the people who face a gap in coverage through no fault of their own. Louisiana's Mary Landrieu is hoping to cauterize that crisis with a bill that supposedly allows people to keep their plan if they stay current on premiums. About 80,000 Louisiana policy holders—or half of the individual market—will be dumped in 2014, according to the state's insurance commissioner.

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