On Tuesday, President Obama strolled up to a microphone in the Rose Garden of the White House and declared victory for his signature legislation. He would have made the announcement in prime time but the networks thought better of it, as in better to broadcast their regular line up. So, Mr. Obama was left to pre-empt other afternoon soap operas. When he reached the mic, he claimed that, as of the March 31 non-deadline, 7.1 million people had signed up for Obamacare health coverage.
What a fortuitous number 7.1 million is. It slightly surpasses the signup figure predicted by the Congressional Budget Office last May. It gives the highly criticized legislation desperately needed legitimacy. And, best of all, it is a number that can be neither verified nor examined. The fanfare was almost palpable. Drums rolling, trumpets blaring, fireworks exploding.
The President took no questions and skipped all details of the signup figure. How many have paid, how many are young invincibles, how may were previously uninsured and how many had their old policies canceled remain mysteries. His claim is simply that the number is, in and of itself, enough.
Enough for what? Enough, according to the President, to push his legislation beyond the point of no return. There are now too many people in the Obamacare system to go back. It would create too much of a mess to undo the larger mess. We have no choice but to accept it and move on. In other words, we have reached Obamacare’s event horizon and will be sucked inexorably into that black hole.
The Obamacare done-deal claim, without regard to whether the underlying assumptions have been validated or goals reached, is jaw-dropping. It means that the purpose of the law was to make it an entrenched part of American life simply because the President wanted it that way. Otherwise, his announcement would have discussed, not the point of no return, but an assessment of the number of previously uninsured who now have coverage.
The announcement would also have included the number of young invincibles who enrolled. After all, supposedly, 2.7 million of them had to signup for coverage by the March 31 date if the law were to have a chance of success.
Now we find out that none of that is important. What is important is to get enough people tied up in the system to prevent its undoing. This is a stunning revelation and it comes very late in the day. But, it does bring everything the President has said and done in the past four years into sharp focus.
The blatant and repeated misrepresentations of basic benefits, the administratively created exceptions and delays, the glossing over of critical website flaws. The President explained on Tuesday that it was all a hoax, a mere enticement to get enough signups to go beyond the turn back point. That certainly explains the lack of accountability for the many Sebelius performance failures.
To thoughtful listeners, the over-and-done revelation makes the President’s claimed number suspect. There is no way to verify it. 7 million is what was needed and 7 million is what he claimed. Fishy, of course, but convenience is not a reason, by itself, to doubt. However, it does come from a man who repeatedly misrepresented the law’s basic benefits over a period of several years.
Even Obama’s claim of having reached the Obamacare event horizon is hype. After all, he’s trying to use the legislation to tear down a long-established system that successfully insured over 250 million people. Certainly, Congress can enact a law that will undo a minor inconvenience that has managed to attract less than 3% of that number.
In its full context, the President’s Tuesday announcement seemed like a ploy to ward off anticipated criticism when reality sets in. When the breakdown in signup demographics is insufficient, when costs are far higher than previously advertised, when healthcare providers and treatment options are curtailed. When these negatives frustrate the once-touted goals or lay bare Obamacare’s inability to reach them, the President’s response will be that it’s too late. He told us so on Tuesday.
The President has made so many false claims about his signature legislation that Pinocchio would stand in awe if he could stand on his own. The question is whether the rest of us will stand for it.