February 22, 2014

Politico’s Nather Claims Obamacare Changes and Delays Help … Republicans?

On February 10, in a rare moment of candor which was quickly edited away in subsequent revisions, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar at the Associated Press, aka the Administration’s Press, wrote that President Obama had unilaterally instituted delays and revisions in Obamacare’s employer mandate because he was “angling to avoid political peril.”

Of course he was. Postponing and revising the requirement that firms cover their employees “or face a $2000 fine per employee, after the first 30,” delays the decidedly negative impact of the statist healthcare scheme until after November’s elections. But in a Friday evening report, Politico’s David Nather essentially tried to claim that Obama really acted against his own best interest (links are in original; bolds and numbered tags are mine):

The politics of Obamacare delays


… every time the Obama administration bends a deadline for the Affordable Care Act — delaying the employer mandate for the second time, putting off parts of the enrollment launch, or giving customers just a little more time to sign up — it fuels the perception that the administration is just winging it [1], and gives Republicans new fodder to accuse the White House of rewriting laws too casually. [2]

That doesn’t mean the busted deadlines always matter in the real world, though. Some matter more than others. Insurers have been genuinely put out by all the rules that have been changed along the way, which has dumped more work in their laps. That raises the risks of enrollment errors and other problems down the road, like price increases because insurers didn’t get the mix of customers they expected.

Business groups, however, don’t seem bothered by the latest delay in the employer mandate. In fact, they’re saying the employers who are getting the extra time will be happy to have it. [3]

… And vulnerable red-state Democrats — the ones who have the most incentive to protect themselves from the clunky Obamacare rollout — aren’t piling on the White House over the employer mandate extension. [4]

… The biggest impact the delays will have, then, is political — as they help Republicans revive the image of an Obama administration that just never had its act together as it launched its signature health care initiative.

They’ll keep firing up the base by accusing President Barack Obama of ignoring the law, even though it’s not a law they support in the first place. [5] And every time Democrats point to the signs that things are going better — especially the surging enrollment numbers [6] that were announced earlier this month — Republicans will use the busted deadlines to try to revive the image of incompetence.

Democrats insist it’s just part of the messiness of launching a major new social program and making sure it works — and that it’s natural for Republicans to take advantage, but that task will become harder as the implementation gets back on track. [7]


[1] — It isn’t a “perception” that the adminstration is winging it; it’s reality.

[2] — This isn’t about “rewriting laws too casually.” It’s about rewriting them illegally, unconstitutionally, and often in direct contradiction to the laws which Congresses have passed.

[3] — Employers are naturally not going to be vocal in an administration which sics the dogs on its critics. I’ll betcha they’d be a lot happier if Obamacare is completely repealed.

[4] — Vulnerable red-state Democrats aren’t even thinking about “piling on.” They know that Obama threw them a lifeline. Whether it’s enough to save them remains to be seen. The idea that they would in any way be unhappy about the administration’s unilateral delays and revisions is ludicrous.

[5] — Nather apparently believes that there’s some kind of hypocrisy in criticizing Obama over his unilateral actions if you didn’t support the Affordable Care Act in the first place. Perhaps he even thinks that no one who was against the law has any standing to criticize the manner of its implementation. Both arguments are complete horse manure. By that logic, anyone who opposed the Iraq War had no standing to criticize how it was working out, and deserved to be completely ignored. Anyone who had tried that argument during the war — and I don’t think anyone did — would justfiably have been pilloried.

[6] — “Surging enrollment numbers”? Uh, can we talk about how many enrollees have paid, how many who may or may not be enrolled can’t see a doctor because the docs can’t tell who is or isn’t covered, and how much utter chaos is occurring in the back offices at HHS, insurance companies, and medical providers? Apparently, the answer is, “Of course not.” Instead, we have hacks like Nather claiming that  Obamacare is “turning from a running joke into one big shoulder shrug.” Only because you guys aren’t interested in chronicling the ongoing chaos, David.

[7] — Implementation appears to have become at best a bit less chaotic. But the press will describe it as being “on track.” The political strategy is to run out the clock and delay political impacts as much as possible, and then ask, “How can you repeal something which has been ‘the law’ for five years?”

Sorry, David. Obama has done what he’s done with his precious Obamacare — it isn’t the Affordable Care Act any more, because the original law has been twisted almost beyond recognition — defer its political and economic damage. The question is whether his effort will be largely successful or only minimally successful.

In a perfect world, there might be a chance that Obama’s unilateral moves would backfire politically. But we’re not in one, largely because there are so many deliberately misdirecting journalists like David Nather.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


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