Obamacare: Can Putting Lipstick on the Pig Save It? Maybe

Clown_Comic_Insert_v3We’ve come to expect unusual political gymnastics from our congressional representatives in election years. We understand that politicians talk and act in strange ways during these times, driven exclusively by self-preservation, i.e., getting re-elected. This behavior is necessitated by their unacceptable representation of voters during off years. Come election time, they scurry around trying to put lipstick on the political pigs they’ve bred in the congressional barn.


This year is no different. In fact, 2014 is even more so because the elections this fall are the first following the effective date of Obamacare. Today, that particular piece of legislation is the ugliest hog in the barn. Regardless of the law’s intent, the reality has been canceled policies, increased premiums and deductibles and loss of coverage, doctors and accessibility to treatment centers.


To make matters worse, President Obama has single-handedly made more than twenty changes to the law to temporarily soften or delay its impact. These are nothing more than politically motivated attempts to shelter Democrats from a further onslaught of adverse consequences in this election year. As far as fooling anyone goes, the President could have skipped his Obamacare marketing appearances on comedy shows. His pen-and-phone change routines are much funnier, in a very sick sort of way.


Not surprisingly, the public’s response to the President’s signature legislation is overwhelmingly negative. Supporters who are not standing for re-election respond that it’s too early to predict the long-term impact of the law. There may be tons of wreckage right now, but short-term pain, especially when its suffered by someone else, is worth long-term gain.


Those facing the electorate firing squad can’t be as forthright in their public statements. Five Democrat senators and one Independent proposed changes to Obamacare just last week. Motivated by a deep desire to stem the mounting disaffection, the six sought to take advantage of polls suggesting that voters want the law fixed rather than rescinded.


The six had no choice but to offer modifications. They can’t gush support of the law like Nancy Pelosi. They don’t share the surrealistically favorable voter demographics in her district. They can’t distance themselves from the law through harsh criticisms such as those taken by their Republican colleagues, either. That would make them even easier targets of their campaign opponents.


So, while voicing their strong support for Obamacare, they speak of the law as “not perfect”. The leader of the six and the most vulnerable in November is Mary Landrieu (D-La). She claims the proposed changes are based on a “few recommendations” from her constituents to make the law “work better”.


She has to be kidding. Fixing thousands of pages of pervasive problems through a few suggestions of a few voters is silly. It’s the worst kind of pandering to naive people who hold the keys of victory in their ballots. Not surprisingly, the fixes are superficial, ignoring the fundamental problems of the portion of the law that Obama allowed to go into effect. They are also silent on the huge negatives of the delayed provisions.


One of Landrieu’s proposals is to create yet another category of Obamacare policy, this one with lower premiums and much higher deductibles. Another is to allow individuals to sign up directly with insurance companies, bypassing the problem-plagued Obamacare website.


But, these recommendations simply apply lipstick on the pig. They are intended to distract long enough from what may be intractable problems to get Landrieu and others re-elected. This just another form of the let’s wait and see what happens strategy. Elects us now and we’ll see what happens later.


There’s a lot of discussion in the news about whether the autocratic Harry Reid will allow the proposals to come before the Senate. Viewing it as a crack in the dam that could open the flood gates, he may simply refuse to allow a vote. That’s TBD.


Those who claim that voters want the law fixed, not repealed, are silent about its substantive problems. Frank discussions of issues beg to have solutions offered. But, because the problems with the law are systemic, the solutions amount to effective repeal, something that supporters will not admit.


There’s something else that enthusiasts don’t discuss. The reason why Americans want the legislation fixed. They support the goal not the implementation. They see the fairness in providing healthcare to everyone. They reject the notion that Obamacare constructs are the only way to get there.


Can the healthcare law be fixed? If fix means replace with a scheme that provides universal coverage but skips wrecking havoc on every other part of the healthcare system, then yes. Republicans have offered several alternatives to Obamacare that meet this objective.


But, Republicans are the absolute worst in the history of the species at getting their message across. That Obamacare has survived its muck and mire is, in part, a testament to the ineptitude of the GOP.


If Republicans were smart, which is difficult to tell, they would come up with a single plan that they label a fix to Obamacare. Not piecemeal attempts at change, not the next new thing and not dumping what we’ve got. Just adjustments that replace the substance while preserving the goal.


This is the kind of lipstick that may very well permit the necessary substantive changes. But, will we ever see that color come out of the tube?