Republicans cannot rely on ire at Obamacare to last


Before noon Monday 375,000 Americans logged on to and discovered that, though the federal website is working far better than at its launch in October, it still runs into problems when demand gets too high. That is both the good news and the bad news for Republicans who are hoping to use Obamacare as their prime attack point in the 2014 congressional elections.

For the GOP, continuing glitches in the online delivery system for the new national healthcare market reinforce the argument that the Obama administration has tried to do too much, too fast without really understanding the enormity of the job. That is the upside for Republicans. The downside is that there is obviously a demand for the product Obamacare is trying to deliver and, by the time the election rolls around, millions of voters may have forgotten the website bugs. Instead, they may be pleased that healthcare coverage is no longer out of reach for them and they will not want to see it taken away by a Republican Congress.

Conversely, there are a large number of voters who are not especially happy with the healthcare reforms. Many people who buy their own health insurance have been told their old policies are being discontinued and they must buy a more expensive alternative. Others have found their new insurance does not allow them to continue with the same medical care provider. They are upset now; will they still be angry next November?


My friend Mark might be. He is one of those who is seeing his healthcare rates spike. Mark got a letter from his insurance company a few weeks ago stating that, because of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the cost of his coverage would almost triple. He went online to look for a better deal in the marketplace but could not find a plan that offered any savings. Then, a few days ago, his insurance company sent another letter announcing they had miscalculated; his rate was still going up, but not by nearly as much.

Mark’s conclusion, fair or not, echoes the suspicion many people have: The insurance companies are using Obamacare as an excuse to jack up rates and increase their profits.

On the other side of the ledger, there’s a young man I know named Daniel. He is a college student, too old to be on his parents’ plan, too lacking in income to buy his own coverage -- until now. Sunday, Dan signed up online. It took him just 45 minutes (he could have done it in under a half hour if he had not needed to track down an elusive number connected to his student loans). Lucky for him he is in a state with a smoothly operating exchange. Even luckier, he now has healthcare coverage and, because of his income level, does not have to pay a cent.

The rough reality is that people like Mark are paying more so that people like Daniel can get the healthcare they could not afford before Obamacare kicked in. Plenty of folks, especially Republicans, would insist this is not fair. But consider what the alternative has been.

A couple of years ago, Daniel suffered an appendicitis attack. Fortunately, he was rushed to a hospital and got immediate, expert care. He also got a bill for $30,000 that he could not pay. So, as hospitals have done for many years when giving care to those who could not afford insurance, they waived the huge fee and recouped the loss by billing other patients and their insurance companies at excessive rates.

Will that change now that nearly everyone will be insured? Will costs come down and benefit everyone? Will the complexities of the new healthcare system continue to be a source of glitches, goof ups and aggravation or will it all smooth out over time? Will Americans understand that those of us who are healthy and better off financially have always subsidized the cost of caring for those who are ill and poor and that this new system is an attempt to rationalize that process?

Since those questions and many more have yet to be answered, no one can really say if Republicans will be able to ride the anti-Obamacare bandwagon to victory next fall. By betting against universal healthcare, they might just as easily prove to be big losers.