The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
ACA Fail Fractal It’s Panic Time

The Obama administration is doing everything it can to save the Affordable Care Act in advance of tomorrow’s deadline to sign up for coverage, and the panic is showing. For weeks now the administration has been delaying provisions, tweaking standards, and exempting people from the law’s initial rules (e.g. here), and now it has delivered the coup de grace. The New York Times reports that people who have had their insurance cancelled will be exempt from any penalties for non-compliance with the individual mandate in the coming year. They will also be allowed to purchase catastrophic insurance, even if they are over thirty. Insurers are furious that they may now see less healthy customers sign up for plans this year:

Insurers, already struggling with problems caused by the chaotic debut of the federal insurance exchange in October, expressed surprise and dismay.

“This latest rule change could cause significant instability in the marketplace and lead to further confusion and disruption for consumers,” said Karen M. Ignagni, the president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group.

Megan McArdle has a good roundup of the reactions here, as well as her own good commentary. Perhaps the most important link in there is to Ezra Klein’s column. Klein has long been a cheerleader for the law, and his nervousness about this announcement shows through. As he points out, Republicans have just been given a very easy argument for delaying the mandate in its entirety, and it will be very hard for Democrats to argue against it. Just as the administration’s quickness to dole out certain kinds of exemptions undermined its case for the contraception mandate in a recent case, so too will this announcement make it hard for the administration to explain why it’s exempting some parties and not others.

It’s still very unclear where all this is going to lead, but this is one of the clearest signs of crisis we’ve seen yet from the administration.

Published on December 22, 2013 10:00 am
  • Jim__L

    For people who love laws, they sure don’t like Rule of Law, do they? Exemptions, carve-outs, taking their wankery and calling it “law”…

    Modern Liberals are on a power trip, plain and simple. They want to be able to fiddle with our lives as if we were lab rats in their social experiments. They just know that things will turn out perfectly in the end, they’re sure of it! Because they’re all so brilliant, they’ve been telling themselves (and each other) so since preschool.

    The only reaction of a free people to this kind of behavior is take power away from them. We need to REPEAL this misbegotten law, and throw its enablers out of office — or better yet, in jail. Better still, into exile.

    • bigfire

      Laws? Where we’re heading with Obamacare, we don’t need Laws.

    • Kavanna

      At last, someone broaches the “R” question.

      • Jim__L

        I’m disappointed… no one brought up the fact that we have no laws to throw Pelosi, et al, into jail or exile.

  • Pete

    ObamaCare is inherently illegitimate and was conceived in an atmosphere of dishonesty and outright lies. It should die.

    • Boritz

      How can even liberals deny that a safe, legal abortion is the answer for this ACA thing that can’t live outside the womb on its own.

      • Kavanna

        Clearly, ACA isn’t viable and should be terminated with extreme prejudice :)

      • Corlyss

        Because 1) Obama is their guy. 2) There are no limits on the lies and self-delusions they will entertain for their guy (cf, the women’s movement’s reaction to Clinton’s sexual escapades with subordinates). 3) George Lakoff told Dem leaders years ago that facts don’t matter unless they confirm a preconceived notion, therefore Dems can ignore facts. 4) Liberals have long since been intoxicated with their own goodness and righteousness. They don’t learn anything; they keep trying to repeat their glory days.

  • TommyTwo

    Well of course the administration has to use all these ad hoc stopgap measures! It’s because those evil Rethuglicans refuse to cooperate, and maliciously insist on implementing the ACA immediately, even if it is manifestly not yet ready. If they were responsible patriots, they would have worked together with the administration and delay the implementation of the ACA for a year. As it is, their stunningly irresponsible behavior reveals them for what they are.

    • TommyTwo

      (Apologies for the faulty grammar above, but I am unable to edit my
      comments in Disqus. Not to mention that posting comments is itself a
      matter of turning off browser security features, repeated login
      attempts, and repeated page reloads.)

      • Corlyss

        Have you tried logging on thru a FB acct? Maybe you would have more success editing there.

        • TommyTwo

          Perhaps, and thanks for the advice, but TommyTwo don’t facebook.

          (Assuming that these problems are not widespread, I’ll conclude they’re due to my setup, and I willingly accept these annoyances in exchange for greater security/privacy. I just reserve the right to vent on occasion. :-) )

          • Corlyss

            I hear ya, Tommy. I didn’t FB either until John Batchelor assured me it was the only way I could comment at his site. All the folks I was used to chatting with disappeared, ‘cuz they don’t FB either, nobody responds to my posts, and I might as well not have bothered. I don’t use it for the social purposes it was intended. Only my friends can read my stuff at my FB page and I have not designated anyone as a friend. Never have in that context, never will. It’s like my phone, for me to communicate on sites like this, not for others to contact me. ;-)

    • Fred

      Is this writ ironical? I can’t really tell. If not, just . . .wow. The failure of this misbegotten law that Republicans tried to stop, that passed without a single Republican vote, that is unpopular with the public is somehow the Republicans fault? Again, just wow.

      • TommyTwo

        Poe’s Law

        You forgot the most relevant fact, that during the debt-ceiling debate, the GOP specifically called for a one year delay.

        • John Galt

          Exactly right…it was those wacko birds Ted Cruz and Mike Lee

  • mgoodfel

    Guess they should have read it before they passed it.

    • Bill_Woods

      They had to pass it to find out what was in it.

  • Corlyss

    I don’t understand how ANY of Obama’s Hail Mary’s to save the law are legal unless the law contains so much discretion as to be illegally broad in its authority. I don’t know how this law stays alive, except for the limp SCOTUS we’ve got that didn’t even return the “tax” for proper legislative process. With this sorry lot, anything could happen. All I know is someone needs to rescue the American public from this horrid law.

    • Kavanna

      Someone needs to rescue the American public from this horrid president whom they elected*, twice.

      • Corlyss

        Ordinarily, I’m a big believer in makers of their beds being compelled to sleep in them.

        My problem with this principle is the stupid voters who voted for him in spite of the mountainous evidence of singularly spectacular incompetence, just because he seems “a nice guy,” dragged the rest of us into this nightmare scenario.

        I used to preach that the strength of the American system wherein there was scarcely any difference between Dems and Reps. was that there was so much agreement on such broad principles that the losers could be guaranteed that little would change under the winners. That has been increasingly untrue ever since the 1994 election. It didn’t dawn on me before the aftermath of that election that Democrats, entrenched for so long in government as if ruling were their birthright, would become so perversely venomous and vindictive and downright hateful. They’re poor winners and poor losers.

        • Andrew Allison

          You overlook the very low Republican turnout due to the party’s extraordinarily inept choice of candidate. “None of the above” was the decision of many.

          • Corlyss

            I wasn’t referring to recent elections. I was considering the 20th century history of both parties. The problem you raise has been particularly acute in 1) the recent past (60 years) since self-nomination became the rule and 2) was identified and managed expertly by Newt when he was the de facto leader of the party 1992-1998. He and Trent Lott began building the competitive Congressional candidate list in the late 70s early 80s. But alas he was tossed out by the freshmen and sophomore House members who feared they would lose their elections because he insisted on party solidarity. The Tea Party threw a wrench into the system and has cost the party the Senate in at least 2 cycles. Check out Jay Cost’s article in the Weekly Standard. http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/battle-2014_769612.html

          • Andrew Allison

            I responded to, “My problem with this principle is the stupid voters who voted for him in
            spite of the mountainous evidence of singularly spectacular
            incompetence,. . . ” What’s stupid about voting your pocket book? The stupid ones were those Republicans and Independents who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for either candidate. The Democrats stand for redistribution and the mass of their supports understands this. What do the Republicans stand for, and how can they restore balance? My own view is that they are clueless. Why, for example, are they allowing Obama to flout the law of the land with arbitrary changes to ACA? If they half a brain between them they would be doing everything they can to ensure that it is implemented exactly as passed, thereby almost guaranteeing a landslide. Almost because, at the end of the day, a candidate has to believe in, and communicate, something other than “I want the job”. Cheers.

          • Corlyss

            “The Democrats stand for redistribution and the mass of their supports understands this.”

            I think voters only imperfectly understand that to be the fact. I do not believe that is the majority perception, even among their voters, because if it were, they would eventually understand that eventually, unless the voter lives totally on government handouts, the government is coming for them. I think Dems “we care” has covered a multitude of superficially appealing social sins, not all of which involved transfer payments. As a result, I doubt the suburbanites and the ex-urbanites who vote Democratic support the Dems because of government handouts. I could be wrong.

            “My own view is that they are clueless.”

            I can’t dispute your judgment. But not necessarily for your reasons.

            “Why, for example, are they allowing Obama to flout the law of the land with arbitrary changes to ACA?”

            What exactly do you suggest they do? If you know what they can do about it from their positions in Congress or as private citizens, by all means, notify them immediately.

            “If they half a brain between them they would be doing everything they can to ensure that it is implemented exactly as passed, thereby almost guaranteeing a landslide.”

            Well, there’s the tension between wanting to do the statesman-like thing, and letting the system crash and burn. Mara Liasson quoted a source today on NPR that put his finger on the tension in the GOP over Obamacare: the conflict is between those “who think government by Democrats is the problem and those who think government is the problem.” There’s still too many of the former, i.e., those who are what Geo. Bush II styled himself: big government Republicans. You know who they are. They think national health insurance is a good idea that they can implement more efficiently. That way they can appeal to Dems and Independents who worship at the altar of big government and its unending safety nets, thereby avoiding the usual “mean” condemnation reserved for small government Republicans. The Big Democrat Republicans need to be purged from the party like the Dems purged the blue-dogs and the Al From Democratic Leadership Council types.

          • Andrew Allison

            Thought provoking, as always, but you can’t have it both ways: you insist that the voters stupid, but think they can figure out where all the “entitlements” lead? Why would the roughly 50% of voter who don’t pay taxes care about reducing taxes and government?
            The President took an oath to uphold the laws of the US, an oath which he has repeatedly violated. There’s a cure for that.
            The statesmanlike thing would be to let the damned thing crash and burn as quickly as possible.
            I don’t think the GOP has a hope in hell of reaching the “47%”, which is doing very nicely thank you. They need, as I wrote at the beginning of this thread, to convince those who see what’s happening to get out and vote. That, in my ever-humble opinion, requires two things: a platform which addresses the issues and an candidate who can inspire. Cheers!

          • Corlyss

            “you insist that the voters stupid, but think they can figure out where all the “entitlements” lead?”

            As long as voters base their votes on whoever is the more likeable guy (as happened in the last 4 presidential cycles), they’ll always be fundamentally stupid IMO. I write off those who think taxpayers’ money is their due ( I guess that’s the 47%). I believe the majority of voters have enough sense to realize that, for nations as well as people, “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” Nobody wants to give up his share unless EVERYONE ELSE gives up his share at the same time too. There’s the crux of the matter from the voter POV. I wish it were all just a message problem. I think people want to see the mechanism and be assured that they will not be more disadvantaged than others. I also think there’s not a Republican candidate alive who can do what we both think needs to be done. But I could be wrong. Happy Holidays, Andrew!

          • Andrew Allison

            And to you, my friend! And I hope that you are wrong but fear you may be right.
            With apologies to Russell Long: “Don’t touch your entitlements, don’t touch mine, take them from that fellow behind the tree!”
            I have long maintained that the only way we are going to get control of Federal spending is an across-the-board cut in all expenditures, no exceptions and hence equally unfair to all. Regards.

  • Another_Lurker

    With all the tweaking, I wonder if Obama did inadvertently create a situation where a lawsuit demanding equal treatment would succeed?

    • Corlyss

      There is so much potential for law suits in all this juggling it makes one dizzy. The problem is twofold: the head-snapping speed with which changes are being made make it difficult to count on an issue remaining stable long enough to get to the courthouse; and finding a plaintiff.

  • gunsmithkat

    If the Democrat party had any brains they’d get behind a repeal now, waiting til three weeks before the election in Nov 2014 won’t help them very much. Besides there’s no way they can disappear the Big Lie.

    Oh and thanks for getting disqus working again.

    • Corlyss

      Well, if they do, it will go badly for Republicans. Here’s their tactical dilemma: they don’t want to bail on their guy, the FIRST BLACK president and all those warm fuzzies they get for having supported him; but they want to take the issue away from Republicans. Nancy Pelosi can tell her automatons to distance themselves from Obama to save themselves, but that is a big problem for the Democratic party to take that stance. It inhibits their ability to deploy credible candidates in areas they need to win. They don’t need to win the cities and minorities. They need to get back the white male and the young who are abandoning them so fast there’s skid marks on the backs of Democratic candidates.

  • Kavanna

    Obama repeals ObamaCare. All that Republican huffing and puffing for nothing.

  • Robby Cunningham

    Where is this going?

    It’s going toward the next Republican president issuing a press release stating that he is using “enforcement discretion” to suspend the entire law, citing the dozens (by that time, it’s only 14 now) of “enforcement discretion” decisions made by the Obama Administration, and daring progressives to sue to get the law re-started. Barack Obama’s lawlessness has handed any president precedent to repeal by fiat any laws they don’t like – do he and his allies in the White House really think that it won’t be used against progressive-supported laws and regulations in the future? EPA regulation of carbon? Nope, “enforcement discretion,” EPA will not be regulating carbon while any Republican is president. Bans on drilling in federal lands? Okay now because the president said so, “enforcement discretion.” Any other thing, “enforcement discretion.” Thanks Obama!

    • Corlyss

      Highly unlikely. Remember the MSM is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic party. They won’t allow a Republican to get away with what Obama does and they will have no shame whatever about calling a Republican on the act in spite of the fact that they raised not a peep when Obama did it. That’s been WRM’s point when he’s said about some administration hypocrisy “it’s a good thing the president isn’t a Republican or we’d never hear the end of it from the media.”

  • NewClassTraitor

    The Roman emperor Caligula appointed his horse consul. The United States outdid him, and elected half the horse as president. Twice.

  • John Galt

    Who to blame for all the problems with ObamaCare?
    Is it George Bushes fault? How about those racist Tea Party extremists? Or maybe it’s the fault of the Koch brothers?
    I personally think it’s just a spontaneous chain reaction resulting from a YouTube video.

  • Corlyss

    Best wishes of the season to all my sparing partners and the Prof and the MBTC here at WRM’s cozy little corner!