Bad Obamacare Month Could Haunt White House

obamacare-gallup-approvalWritten by Brian Hughes

November has been a terrible month for President Barack Obama, between his party losing control of the Senate and seemingly unending bad news for Obamacare.

The last few weeks were the worst stretch for his signature domestic initiative since the botched rollout of Obamacare in fall 2013, stoking doubts about whether the president can ever sell his healthcare policies to the American public.

First, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear arguments on the legality of Obamacare subsidies, a move that could gut the centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act.

Then, a string of videos surfaced in which Obamacare architect and MIT economist Jonathan Gruber said the legislation passed because of the “stupidity of the American voters.”

Next, the White House had to account for a pair of enrollment problems.

The Department of Health and Human Services projected that between 9 and 9.9 million people would enroll in Obamacare plans next year, well short of the 13 million predicted by the independent Congressional Budget Office. Just a few days later, administration officials admitted they inflated sign-up figures for Obamacare in 2014, including dental plans, to pad the numbers by 400,000 — allowing the administration to meet its original goal of enrolling 7 million consumers.

Perhaps most surprisingly, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., a major Obama ally, admitted that Democrats wasted political capital in passing Obamacare instead of other initiatives so early in the president’s first term.

“Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them,” Schumer told reporters. “We took their mandate and put all our focus on the wrong problem — healthcare reform.”

And for good measure, Republicans finally filed a long-anticipated lawsuit against Obama for his unilateral delays of the healthcare law.

Critics contend that the setbacks are indicative of problems likely to shape the president’s legacy.

“As the law is implemented, it becomes more unpopular and less sustainable. This is just the beginning — it’s only going to get worse,” predicted Republican consultant Mark Corallo. “Obama has chosen to wallow in his own arrogance when it comes to the healthcare law. It’s part of the reason he’s wrecked his own party and destroyed large majorities in the House and Senate.”

The fallout from the November blunders was hard to ignore. When the administration trumpeted that roughly 460,000 people had signed up for 2015 Obamacare coverage in the first week of open enrollment, the announcement was immediately met with suspicion.

On a broader level, a president already struggling to maintain the trust of the American public is now left to explain another series of shortcomings in implementing his agenda.

And the White House is scrambling to change the tenor of the Obamacare debate.

“If you want to have a conversation about the Affordable Care Act, we should,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz. “Because we believe strongly the Affordable Care Act is working, that kids for the first time can stay on their parents’ plan, that women with pre-existing conditions no longer have to worry about being discriminated against in terms of coverage, that 9.1 million additional Americans are now covered under Medicaid, that 10.3 million previously uninsured adults now have health insurance.”

Yet, polling shows that Obamacare is as unpopular as before, an opinion that is increasingly difficult to change as Obama enters the seventh year of his presidency.

“No I don’t think the approval [ratings] on Obamacare will improve dramatically before the president leaves office,” conceded a veteran Democratic strategist. “They’ve botched it one too many times. And now [Democrats] are rushing to get in on the bashing act. It’s sad.”

Republicans have seized upon the array of administrative errors in November, looking to drive the narrative that the White House misled the public on a sweeping law they knew would have negative consequences for a wide swath of Americans.

Gruber has already agreed to testify on Capitol Hill in early December.

Yet, the president insists that Obamacare ultimately will become a legacy-defining achievement that Americans view in much the same way they see Medicare today: a necessary overhaul to the healthcare system that improved access to medical care.

Republicans counter that such claims are purely political spin.

“That’s fantasy,” Corallo said. “That’s ‘If I say it enough times, people will think it’s the truth.’ Obamacare is not popular. It never will be.”


This article was originally posted at the WashingtonExaminer.com website.