The latest sign ObamaCare’s implementation isn’t going well? Even its chief legislative author thinks it’s heading for disaster.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—the legislation more commonly known as ObamaCare—had many authors, but chief among them was Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee. When Baucus at admitted in 2010 that he had not read every page of the final health care legislation, his staff went on defense, insisting that the senator “wrote the bill that passed the Finance Committee” and then worked on the final version, which was grown out of the Finance Committee bill. If there’s any one legislator who can legitimately claim to be the law’s author, it’s Baucus.
So it’s worth paying attention when Baucus says that he thinks the process of setting up the law’s health insurance exchanges is marching towards catastrophe. At a Senate hearing on Wednesday morning, Baucus said he is “concerned that not every state, including Montana, will have an insurance marketplace established in time.” And he warned Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that he sees “a huge train-wreck coming down.”
Given the lack of confidence coming from officials in charge of implementing the law, the worries expressed by health insurance industry executives who are supposed to sell through the exchanges, the delay of a key component of the small-business exchanges, and the recent revelation that building the exchanges has already cost twice as much as expected, this is not exactly surprising.
It is, however, something of a crow-eating moment for Baucus—or at least it should be. At the same town meeting where he said he had not read the entire text of the final law, he also insisted that critics of the bill would change their tune. “It’s not perfect, nothing’s perfect, but I’m telling you, ma’am, it’s a good start,” he said to a woman expressing concerns about the health law. “Mark my words, several years from now you’re going to look back and say, ‘eh, maybe it isn’t so bad.’” Several years later, it looks as if maybe it is.