Obamacare—The Lump of Coal in America’s Stocking

Obamacare—The Lump of Coal in America’s Stocking

iStockphoto/The Fiscal Times

In the spirit of the season, I bring tidings of great joy – especially for the GOP. The country continues to heal, but President Obama is not getting much of the credit. Because Republicans in the House had a rare moment of sanity and passed a budget, their star is shining a little brighter. 

A new poll out in Iowa shows Paul Ryan with what is acknowledged to be a surprising 73 percent approval rating among Republicans in that state– way ahead of other expected contestants. Surely that reflects Ryan’s leadership role in constructing a budget compromise. Note to Ted Cruz - most Americans actually do want a functioning government. 

Related: Obama’s Dismal Approval Ratings Take Another Dive

Other polls show Republicans more optimistic about their chances next year. One has to credit the GOP pivot to leadership from gamesmanship, and of course the healthcare snafu.  

The mess that is Obamacare is a gift to Republicans, and one that can’t be returned. It parries the thrust of an improving economy, which should theoretically boost the party in charge. Deficits have dropped from gag-level, inflation is not an issue, and for a variety of reasons the Fed may soon start taking its foot off the monetary accelerator. Housing is improving, state and local government finances are healthier and the consumer is ready to party. 

ISI estimates that real retail sales bounced 5 percent in November as e-commerce took off – again – and the business community, too, is a little more bullish. A recent survey by the Business Roundtable showed CEOs more positive about sales, investment and – most important – hiring. 

Ambitious Republicans might bemoan this fortuitous economic turn since they’d like to grab the Senate in 2014; faster job creation could undercut their complaints about the anti-business White House. But they have a real sparkler in their stocking – and that’s Obamacare.   

No amount of holly and mistletoe will make up for the bad news most Americans are hearing, and will continue to hear, about their healthcare insurance. New Year celebrations for many will be marred by visits to their doctors that won’t be covered – either because their insurance coverage doesn’t actually exist or because their internist is no longer included under their new policy. 

Related: Insured Americans Blame Obamacare for Higher Premiums

As much as the administration will attempt to pinch and pull this monstrosity of a bill into alignment with their impossible promises ($2,500 lower insurance costs for most families? Bah! Humbug!), the reality is not going to be pretty.

Like an Advent calendar, Obamacare reveals a new wonder almost every day.  Last week The New York Times ran a piece explaining why even that bastion of Obamacare cheerleading has become a tad querulous of late. It turns out that “independent practitioners” in New York like opera singers, lawyers and writers, who used to be able to buy insurance through group plans, are finding those policies kaput.  

Obamacare has determined that those folks are now on their own, and treated as individuals. As The Times reports, “for many of them, that is likely to mean they will no longer have access to a wide network of doctors and a range of plans tailored to their needs.” (Quite a conclusion from the paper of record, which hitherto has had quite a different slant on the healthcare bill.) One person interviewed reported that she will now pay $5,000 more per year for a policy that narrows her choice of doctors. 

This is happening all over the country. But – and it’s an important “but” – elsewhere the excuse is that the existing policies did not measure up to the new standards. In New York, that is not the case. The mandates in New York are even more ridiculous than those handed down from Mt. Obamacare

Related: The Many Disrupted Lives Under Obamacare 

The reason that nearly 400,000 folks holding professional or trade group policies in New York may get tossed overboard, according to The Times is that those (mostly healthy) folks are needed to make the government program work. An expert from the Kaiser Family Foundation quoted in the article says leaving those people on their existing plans would leave the pool of health exchange customers smaller and disproportionately sicker and would drive up costs. 

This is the great lump of coal in the nation’s stocking this year. It turns out that someone actually had to pay for all those benefits touted by our disingenuous president. Covering those already sick, adding young people to their parents’ policies, making insurance available to 30 million previously uninsured – there’s a cost to that generosity. Actually, a sizeable cost that the Obama White House has kept hidden from the American people. 

The far right is incensed that the minority party could not construct the budget deal of their dreams. They complain that our entitlements programs are not checked, that Congress gave ground on the sequester. Message to those who would undermine Paul Ryan and John Boehner: the only way we are going to rein in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – the programs that are devastating to our budget going forward – is to take over the Senate in 2014, and to elect a Republican president in 2016. And, the only way those things will happen is if Americans see the GOP as credible and constructive.  

…And, if Republicans keep the spotlight on Obamacare. When Obama and Nancy Pelosi start calling the president’s signature healthcare bill the Affordable Care Act, you know Dems are running for cover – and they are also not telling the truth. Merry Christmas Republicans!

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