The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal.com’s “Best of the Web” written by the editor, James Taranto.
Cats Save Firefighter–Now That Would Be News
“Firefighters Save Cat From Burning Capitol Hill Apartment”–headline, Seattle Fire Department press release, March 1
Bottom Stories of the Day
A Reprieve, but for Whom?
“The Obama administration is set to announce another major delay in implementing the Affordable Care Act,” the Hill reports. Ho hum, Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead. But look at the next phrase: “easing election pressure on Democrats.”
Assuming the report is accurate–the administration’s response yesterday to the Hill’s queries was that “they had no updates to announce”–this looks like an especially cynical move. The idea, as described by the Hill, is to minimize the number of consumers victimized before Election Day by President Obama’s you-can-keep-your-plan fraud. Although perhaps it would be more precisely accurate to say the idea is to minimize the number of consumers who know before Election Day that they’re victims of the fraud.
You’ll recall that last year, late in the summer and through September, insurance companies sent out a wave of letters informing policyholders that their plans would be canceled for failing to comply with ObamaCare’s many mandates. At first Obama and his defenders insisted these were all “substandard” policies and the government was doing people a favor by forcing their cancellation.
When that claim proved indefensible, Obama announced a partial reprieve: He “called on states and the insurance industry to allow people to keep their existing plans for an additional year.” The first batch of policies renewed under that moratorium expire Dec. 31, and insurers must give policyholders 90 days notice of cancellation.
Thus if the one-year reprieve expires, cancellation letters will go out at the same time they did last year–in the weeks leading up to Oct. 1, less than five weeks before the election. “I don’t see how they could have a bunch of these announcements going out in September,” a health-industry consultant tells the Hill. “Not when they’re trying to defend the Senate and keep their losses at a minimum in the House. This is not something to have out there right before the election.”
And so, according to the report, “as early as this week, according to two sources, the White House will announce a new directive allowing insurers to continue offering health plans that do not meet ObamaCare’s minimum coverage requirements”–presumably at least through 2015, though the story vaguely suggests the delay could be “several years.”
The political imperative is clear. If Republicans take a Senate majority–a strong possibility, given that Democrats are defending many seats on unfriendly terrain–then the Senate GOP, for the first time in Obama’s presidency, have the ability to force votes on legislation, and even to push some Republican bills through Congress.
True, the president has his veto pen (or is it a phone?), but he hasn’t used it since the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has seen to it that bills Obama opposes never make it to the floor of the Senate, which frees the president from the political cost of vetoing anything popular.
What’s more, vetoes can be overridden with two-thirds majorities in both congressional chambers. That raises the possibility of bipartisan legislation the president opposes–especially, though not only, changes in ObamaCare–becoming law over Obama’s objections.
It’s anyone’s guess how much a delay in ObamaCare cancellations would improve the Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate majority. Our own guess is not much, but it’s unlikely to hurt them.
To be sure, although Obama doesn’t want Congress making any changes to ObamaCare, he isn’t wedded to the law itself, as evidenced by the administration’s numerous delays, waivers, exceptions and outright deviations from its mandates. The New York Times reports on an example of the last category:
The Obama administration said Friday that it would allow some people to receive federal subsidies for health insurance purchased in the private market outside of health insurance exchanges. . . .
Gov. John Kitzhaber of Oregon, a Democrat, had specifically asked the federal government to allow financial assistance, in the form of tax credits, for people buying insurance outside the state’s troubled exchange. Other states running their own exchanges, including Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts and Minnesota, have also experienced technical difficulties, creating political problems for their governors.
The Obama administration’s decision came as a surprise because the Affordable Care Act is clear: Federal subsidies are available only to people who enroll in a “qualified health plan” through an exchange.
That “came as a surprise” is either terribly naive or great deadpan humor.
A related historical development emerged last week, as FoxNews.com reports:
A January 1994 memo between two Clinton White House aides was included in the 4,000 pages of Clinton-era documents released Friday by the National Archives.
In it, one aide voiced concern that they wouldn’t be able to keep the promise that Americans could pick their doctor and health plan under the health care overhaul proposed at that time.
The memo said: “We have a line on p. 10 that says ‘You’ll pick the health plan and doctor of your choice.’ This sounds great and I know that it’s just what people want to hear. But can we get away with it? Isn’t the whole thrust of our health plan to steer people toward cheaper, HMO-style providers? It’s one thing to say we’ll preserve your option to pick the doctor of your choice (recognizing that this will cost more), it’s quite another to appear to promise the nation that everyone will get to pick the doctor of his or her choice. And that’s exactly what this line does. I am very worried about getting skewered or over-promising here on something we know full well we won’t deliver.”
No matter how well Republicans do in November, they won’t be able to repeal or dramatically overhaul ObamaCare without Obama’s support, which they surely will not have. That, combined with all the delays, means that the next president will have quite a mess to clean up. We’re not making any predictions for 2016, but it would be ironic if Obama’s successor turns out to be the architect of the Clinton health-care plan, who was saved by congressional inaction from having to contend with this fiasco back then.
For more “Best of the Web” click here and look for the “Best of the Web Today” link in the middle column below “Today’s Columnists.”