Democrats Develop Obamacare Trust Issues

Senate.govSenate.govThere wasn’t much genuinely new information to be found at yesterday’s congressional hearing on Obamacare. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius offered little more than canned defenses of the administration and more promises to fix what has so evidently gone wrong with the rollout of the law’s technical infrastructure.

But here’s something we did see highlighted in a revealing way:  The administration’s credibility on health care issues has been badly damaged. And Sebelius, in particular, appears not to be trusted, even by some in her own party.

Republican questioning focused heavily on the millions of insurance plan cancellations that are happening all over the country right now—and the contrast with President Obama’s repeated promise that anyone who liked his or her health plan could keep that plan.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tx.) asked Sebelius whether she thought President Obama’s statement was true.  “Well, we know that lying to Congress is a crime, but unfortunately lying to the American people is not. I’d just like to ask you a simple true-or-false question. Is that statement on the White House website true or is it false?”

Her response was to try to challenge the framing of the question: “Sir, I think the statement is that...” Cornyn didn’t wait to find out what she thought the statement in question was. He cut her off, asking again: “Is it true or is it false, Madame Secretary?”

She never directly answered the question, according to the AP account. Instead she said that “a vast majority” of people who currently have job-based insurance would be allowed to keep their plans, as would a majority of people who get individual coverage. Cornyn finished the exchange by asking the record to “note that you have refused to answer my question whether it’s true or false.”

It was clearly a question that Sebelius didn’t want to answer, at least not directly. Other Republican legislators pressed her on the point, but the closest she came to an actual response regarding how Obama’s multiple promises that individuals could keep health plans they liked was when she said “The president’s promise was written into the law from Day One, and that was the grandfather clause.”

At best that’s a non-answer. The president’s promise wasn’t just written into law. It was also delivered verbally in unmistakably clear language on at least three dozen occasions. And what he said was: If you like your health plan, you can keep it, period. The law’s grandfathering provisions, meanwhile, were written narrowly and strictly—ensuring that few plans would actually be able to retain their protected status. Democrats were warned that the narrowness of the rules would result in people losing existing plans. They went ahead anyway. That’s part of the reason why people are upset.

That’s not the only administration deception that came up during yesterday’s hearing. And Republicans were the only ones to criticize the administration’s botched rollout of the exchanges.

Regarding the failure of the exchange portals, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told Sebelius that there are “no words to even describe the frustration that all of us have.”

Sen. Max Baucus, one of the law’s Democratic authors, referencing his pre-launch warning that the exchanges could turn into a “train wreck” if the administration didn’t get a better handle on the particulars of the implementation process, chastised Sebelius for failing to acknowledge the project’s problems earlier—and for insisting that implementation was on track.

“Make no mistake, I believe in this law. I spent two years of my life working on the Affordable Care Act. There is nothing I want more to succeed,” he said, according to The Washington Post. “But months ago I warned that if implementation did not improve, the marketplace might struggle…We heard multiple times that everything was on track. We now know that was not the case.”

Baucus walked back his original train wreck remarks after they were widely quoted by critics of the law. But here he’s making a charge that’s arguably even more severe: He’s not just accusing the administration of botching the rollout of the exchanges—he’s accusing them of deceiving, or at least failing to inform, senior elected officials in their own party regarding the status of the implementation process, including one of the law’s own chief legislative authors.

All Baucus wanted was reliable information. But that’s something he feels as if he hasn’t gotten. “You’ve got to tell us what the problems are,” he said. “The more you don’t tell us, the greater the problem is going to be.” In imploring Sebelius to start being straight with Democrats on the Hill, he was implicitly making the point that up until now that’s not what she and the rest of the administration had been doing.

That’s important—and revealing. Republicans and critics of the law have never trusted the administration on Obamacare. But they weren't the only ones the White House misled, misinformed, or simply kept in the dark throughout the implementation process. Even senior Democratic legislators, for example, were given no early hint that the law's employer mandate would be delayed; party leadership was reportedly given just 30 minutes notice before the announcement went public.

And now some Democratic legislators are openly frustrated, and skeptical, as well. They haven’t quite turned on the law yet. But they’re wary of the people in charge of implementing it.

To put it another way: They still like Obamacare, but they don’t quite trust the Obama administration. The problem, as the law's supporters are rapidly discovering, is that even with the best of reforms, bad implementation tends to make for bad law. Which means that if the administration doesn't start displaying some very basic technical and managerial competence, Democrats may increasingly find that they like the law in theory, but aren't so thrilled with it in practice. 

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  • Night Elf Mohawk||

    Don't ask whether the claim was true or false. Just as if it was true. It's much easier to get mileage out of "even she wouldn't say on the record that the claim was true" than deal with a weasel word answer.

  • PapayaSF||

    It all depends on how you define the word "keep." Or the word "period."

    This is why Democrats miss Clinton.

  • Longtorso, Johnny||

    Text: Obama’s Speech on Health Care Reform
    ...Published: June 15, 2009

    So let me begin by saying this: I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage – they like their plan and they value their relationship with their doctor. And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what. My view is that health care reform should be guided by a simple principle: fix what's broken and build on what works....

  • LynchPin1477||

    fix what's broken

    See, see! People should have known those plans were broken! It isn't Obama's fault if some stupid conservatives couldn't understand what he was saying!

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    No one will take it away. No matter what.

    Oh, those are just the best two lines out of that whole speech, given what's been happening.

  • ||

    If GOP challengers don't beat that speech and those lines like a rented mule in the runup to the 2014 elections, they are truly the Stupidest Party.

  • ||

    Absolutely. The attack ads write themselves. Loop it 10 times, intertwined with the stats and sad faced anecdotes of people who became uninsured.

    It's should be awesome to watch.

  • General Butt Naked||

    If GOP challengers don't beat that speech and those lines like a rented mule in the runup to the 2014 elections, they are truly the Stupidest Party.

    Here's what's gonna happen: Christie will get the nomination, he'll run on a reform (but not repeal) obamacare, and the usual suspects around here will harangue anyone not buying the fucked up math behind Christie = libertarian super hero. Then through the 8 years of the Clinton administration we'll have to hear how it's our fault for not getting behind tubz.

  • Sevo||

    ..."Democrats may increasingly find that they like the law in theory, but aren't so thrilled with it in practice."

    No one yet knows 'what's in it', so how can anyone like it "in theory"?

  • John Thacker||

    It's a lot easier to like in theory when you don't know the details.

  • LynchPin1477||

    Isn't this basically the foundation of every political philosophy ever? "It works perfectly if everyone acts the way I think they will!"

  • Pinky||

    "It works perfectly if everyone acts the way I think they will should!"

    FIFY

  • BuSab Agent||

    Well they like what the "thought" was in it, but the devil is in the details right?

  • PapayaSF||

    The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there's no difference, but in practice, there is.

  • Sevo||

    Say that three times, fast.

  • ||

    No one yet knows 'what's in it'

    SURPRISE!!!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And Sebelius, in particular, appears not to be trusted, even by some in her own party.

    I wonder how the group of Democrats who are suddenly wary of Obamacare's steward coincides with the ones whose seats are up next year. Obamacare was written giving the HHS secretary a lot of responsibility, and discretion.

  • John Thacker||

    Baucus is retiring, so his seat is open.

  • Almanian!||

    This made me picture Baucus walking away, with his ass hanging out of his pants...

  • LynchPin1477||

    Probably more personal for him.

  • ||

    Please let this turn into a bloodbath of Dems turning on the administration in an attempt to save their own asses. PLEASE.

  • PapayaSF||

    Your wish is clearing being granted, my friend. There's no way the website is fully functional by the end of the month, as promised. Rate shock will continue. There will be another uproar over the penaltax next year, plus doctor shortages, plus the employer mandate. This won't settle down for years.

  • Sevo||

    ..."There's no way the website is fully functional by the end of the month, as promised"...

    HA! You just don't know what "fully functional" means!

  • John||

    It is not dead. It is just resting its eyes.

  • Michael Price||

    And it's pulse.

  • John||

    This is going to make the war on the right over Iraq seem like a pillow fight. The left is going to divide into three groups.

    1. Hard core progs who see this as an opportunity to get single payer.

    2. Obama dead enders who will refuse to admit anything is wrong

    3. Red state or moderate Dems who try to work with Republicans and try to fix it.

    All three groups will hate each other and consider each to be traitors to the cause. It is going to be delicious.

  • nonluddite||

    Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!

  • flye||

    ...there are "no words to even describe the frustration that all of us have."

    Tony: Hey Moran! Have you read what it says in here?
    Moran: You kiddin' Tony? You know cops can't read.
    Tony: What does 'INCOMPETENT' mean?
    Moran: That mayor, he calls me at two o'clock in the morning! I mean I don't even answer the phone anymore!
    Tony: Hey! What does 'BAFFLED' mean?
  • Gilbert Martin||

    "She never directly answered the question, according to the AP account. Instead she said that “a vast majority” of people who currently have job-based insurance would be allowed to keep their plans, as would a majority of people who get individual coverage"

    Well that's a lie as well.

    The effect on those with employer coverage has juest been delayed - no repealed. Their time is coming if no changes are made.

  • Paul.||

    An old article, but it shows you just how far to the left things have gotten:

    To understand this notable new trend away from the centrist concessions of the Clinton/Obama years, read carefully the much-circulated essay by Peter Beinert, “The Rise of the New New Left.” It examines how the Millennials are getting fed up with tiny measures to deal with the bleak economic future they face and are far more willing “to challenge cherished American myths about capitalism and class.” Millennials even favor socialism over capitalism by a slight margin, Beinert notes, stirring the embers of the Occupy movement. They are impatient with what Beinert calls Obama’s “pro-capitalist, anti-bureaucratic, Reaganized liberalism.”

    This article is trying to delve into which mayoral candidate is the biggest progressive douchebag in a field of progressive douchebags

    http://crosscut.com/2013/09/25.....yors-race/

    Yeah, ot for this post, but all this Obamacare stuff keeps me thinking about just how screwed we are.

    Obamacare doesn't go far enough. Obama is a capitalist! He's Reaganesque!

  • PapayaSF||

    Paradoxically, the death of Communism seems to have relieved leftists of the burden of defending it, so they are freer to position themselves as the "alternative" to capitalism to people who don't know history or economics.

  • rts||

    people who don't know history or economics.

    So, 99% of the population.

  • Paul.||

    the death of Communism seems to have relieved leftists of the burden of defending it,

    This is an excellent observation.

  • ||

    The fact that non-leftists say we can't call leftists; communists, Marxist socialists and fascists, has allowed this to happen.

    "Oh noz you godwined the thread!!!"

  • Swiss Servator, I got nothing.||

    You know who else Godwin'd threads?

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    Godwin?

  • Swiss Servator, I got nothing.||

    CORRECT!

  • Winston||

    anti-bureaucratic

    So bureaucracy is good now?

    Millennials even favor socialism over capitalism by a slight margin

    I thought the death of the Boomers and their parents would lead to libertopia but I guess I am wrong.

  • Paul.||

    So bureaucracy is good now?

    To the hardened progressive, bureaucracy is the goal. It's the highest possible achievement.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    No way anyone could have looked at the Millenials and thought otherwise. This is a generation that has, by and large, been coddled their whole lives. They're moving back in with their parents in record numbers. They've come to expect that no matter what happens, some authority figure will swoop in and save their butt when things don't go right.

    Now that reality is hitting them smack in the face that the world doesn't care about their little baby feelings, it's naive to think that most of them won't see government maternalism as the cure for all their ills. "SOMEBODY HAS TO DO SOMETHING!!" is going to be the motto of the coming age, if we haven't reached it already.

  • General Butt Naked||

    That's fine and all, but how do you explain 1917-2000, a time that saw the growth of a government in terms that dwarfs anything in man's previous history?

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    It didn't grow in terms that were any greater than, say, the Roman or Ottoman empires. An increasingly complex society is going to demand that it be managed. The question is when exactly the limits of its scale are reached, and I'd say we're pretty close to that right now.

    We probably should have hit the wall in the 90s, but we caught lightning in a bottle with the dot-com bubble.

  • Paul.||

    I actually blame the college/university system. One of the big threads of complaint within the Occupy movement was student debt (forgiveness).

    We've told the last two (3?) generations: Go to college at ANY EXPENSE! and so they did. Young people are almost by definition too dumb-- let me change that to "short sighted and inexperienced" to know what long term debt is. Yet we've literally created a system where we push them into it.

    The flip side is that while telling them to go to college AT ANY EXPENSE, we've completely become untethered to any notion of importance to the field of study or trade learned while going to college.

    They're offered degrees in french literature, or art history, or women's studies or political "science".

    Although the above are just quick examples, they real, and NPR has had no shortage of finding young kidz bitching about their six figure debt and limited job prospects while mentioning in passing that they have one of the types of degress mentioned above.

    There's practically no agency left in the world. The system abhors it.

  • ||

    You really have to be either pretty stupid or have a really, really, overinflated ego to rack up six figure debts studying French Literature.

  • ||

    You probably hate French Fries too, No? (said in a very bad french accent)

  • ||

    Sadly, I'm becoming convinced that socialism is an inevitable byproduct of human social signalling. It's like tribal instincts being misapplied to groups of people numbering in the millions.

    All that sharing and compassion stuff is great when you live in a small close-knit community where everyone will know who is a lazy shit and who is abusing other people's generosity. It doesn't work so well when it's transposed into a massive bureaucracy where everyone is a number and taxes are anonymously seized and anonymously redirected. And especially not in a complex representative democracy where individual votes count for very little.

    In a small community, people DO know you and DO care for you, but that faceless bureucracy, as much as you'd like to think that it knows and cares for people, DOESN'T. All they care about is getting a promotion and taking care of THEIR OWN friends and family. Not you.

  • Sevo||

    HazelMeade|11.7.13 @ 10:18PM|#
    "Sadly, I'm becoming convinced that socialism is an inevitable byproduct of human social signalling. It's like tribal instincts being misapplied to groups of people numbering in the millions."

    I'm theorizing it is that plus the amazing prosperity delivered by the (now despised) markets.
    We have gotten extremely wealthy through that invisible hand and so we (meaning "you") can afford to pay some taxes to make sure that the po' folks get enough to eat.
    And it's true! Until those despised markets get taxed and regulated to where it is no longer true. At that point, there are two options, and I'm pretty sure I know which one gets chosen:
    1) 'Our free shit is running out! Must be those horrid business people!
    2) 'Our free shit is running out! Must be that we made bad choices about where it comes from!'
    The house is taking #1; the house don't lose.

  • ||

    The thing is that people signal first, think later.

    Something bad happens to someone and instead of stopping to do rational analysis of the cause, their first instinct is "I MUST ESTABLISH MY REPUTATION AS A CARING PERSON BY CONDEMNING GREED!"

    It becomes all about "Look at me! I'm a compassionate person!" Then later, the thinking becomes just a bunch of motivated reasoning to back up the position adopted in the initial signalling instinct phase.

    So people's initial instinct is to give a bunch of free shit to people, and then the rest is an elaborate rationale for why giving away free shit at other people's expense it ok.

  • rts||

    Reaganesque

    You keep using that word... I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Sigivald||

    "And Republicans were the only ones to criticize the administration’s botched rollout of the exchanges.

    Regarding the failure of the exchange portals, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told Sebelius that there are “no words to even describe the frustration that all of us have.”"

    I'm assuming that's supposed to be "weren't" in the first sentence?

  • Paul.||

    Debbie Stabenow (good name, by the way-- I think I dated her once) was probably referring to her frustration she has over the thought of questioning Obamacare.

    It was probably an apology to Grand Moff Tarkin.

  • ||

    My bet is that, even when the website is "fully functional", it will still suck balls as a user experience. Just be virtue of the number of hoops you will have to go through to actually enroll.

    Also, I predict it will crash again when we get close to the end of the enrollment period and traffic spikes again.
    Right now, the decline in traffic is probably masking problems that will appear when traffic picks up.

    Nevermind that there will be a new round of "sticker shock" in Febuary-March when all the young and healthy people check it for the first time.

    ObamaCare is a gift that will keep on giving.

  • PapayaSF||

    And then the doctor shortages kick in, and then the employer mandate.

  • BambiB||

    Obamacare could turn out to be a VERY GOOD THING.

    If it informs the entire Country regarding the extent of Democrat deception, incompetence, dishonesty, perfidy, untrustworthiness, inconsistency, and propensity to promise and then not deliver, it could be a VERY GOOD THING indeed!

    Let's hope that Obamacare continues to ruin lives, to force people to spend long sessions trying to enroll, to drive away the young people that it seeks to sacrifice on the alter of fat, old, degenerates. Let's hope that it continues to enrage people like the left wing diarist at the Daily Kos who has sworn (after recognizing his health care premiums would DOUBLE under Obamacare) that he was, "...canceling [his] insurance ... and ... [would] not paying any fucking penalty".

    With a little luck, perhaps the Democrats will lose the House AND the Senate, and those two bodies could then move to impeach Obama, indict him for his many crimes, try him and send him to prison for the rest of his life - or find him guilty of treason and apply the appropriate sentence.

    Obama could fuck up a junk yard with a rubber wrench. And now, finally, his supporters (mostly women) are beginning to figure it out. But let's hope they suffer first, so they don't forget the lesson. Never, ever, vote for a Democrat.

    Next target - neocon Republicans. They have to go.

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