Chuck Schumer just answered my question.
6 days ago, after the revelation that the HHS Dept. had overstated the actual number of people currently enrolled in ACA exchange healthcare policies by 393,000 people by double-counting dental plans, I posted a screed in which I blasted them for "jerking me around". At the time I assumed that they had deliberately padded the number in an attempt to keep the official number above the "magic" 7 million threshold.
I closed my diatribe with the following:
I'm going to continue updating the site because I believe that the Affordable Care Act, with all of its flaws and shortcomings, is still an important and substantial improvement over the system that we had before it.
I just wish that you guys had enough confidence in your own policies not to embellish the metrics...especially when they stand on their own just fine.
Well, over the next day or so, after HHS gave their explanation and I mulled it over a bit, I grudgingly came to believe that it really was an honest (if really stupid) mistake rather than a deliberate fudging.
However, my conclusion above still holds true for the Democratic Party, particularly the ones who actually voted for the law.
Exhibit A: New York Senator Chuck Schumer:
The Affordable Care Act was aimed at the 36 million Americans who were uncovered. It has been reported that only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010, only about 40 percent of those registered voted, so even if the uninsured kept with that rate (which they likely did not) you would still only be talking about 5 percent of the electorate. To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense. So when Democrats focused on health care, the average middle class person thought “the Democrats are not paying enough attention to me.”
Again, our health care system was riddled with unfairness and inefficiency; it was a problem desperately in need of fixing. But we would have been better able to address it if Democrats had first proposed and passed bold programs aimed at a broader swath of the middle class.
Had we started more broadly, the middle class would have been more receptive to the idea that President Obama wanted to help them; the initial faith they placed in him would have been rewarded. They would have held a more pro-government view and would have given him the permission structure to build a more pro-government coalition. Then, Democrats would have been in a better position to, eventually, tackle our nation’s health care crisis.
Paul Waldman of the Washington Post has an excellent deconstruction of everything that's wrong with Schumer's statement, and 2 of President Obama's former speechwriters had a field day blasting him about his utterly unnecessary and unrequested criticism. There's a dozen ways he's wrong, but I just want to focus on one of them, which Jon Lovett (the speechwriter, not the former SNL actor Jon Lovitz) an Jon Favreau (the speechwriter, not the Iron Man guy/sometime actor) crystalized perfectly:
So what exactly does Chuck Schumer believe was the error? Does he believe that the goal of winning office is winning office?
— Jon Lovett (@jonlovett) November 25, 2014
In 2010, Obama said he'd rather lose re-election than lose health care. That's why 14 million more have coverage, and why I'm proud of him.
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) November 25, 2014
This incident reminds me of an old West Wing episode--the one which introduces Marlee Matlin as Joey Lucas, the campaign manager for a Democratic Congressional candidate challenging a Republican incumbent.
In the episode, Lucas is furious with the DNC (and therefore, President Bartlett) for blowing off her candidate, and has travelled to the White House to demand an explanation. She and Josh Lyman meet cute, and then have the following exchange:
JOEY: I’m running a campaign against a Conservative Republican who’s held his seat for over thirty years. He opposed gay rights, abortion, gun control, and raising the minimum wage. And supports government sponsored prayer in the schools and amending the Bill of Rights to prohibit burning an American flag. Now for the first time in three decades, we have a chance to beat him. Why are you telling the DNC to cut down my funding?
JOSH: Because you have a chance to beat him.
JOEY: Excuse me?
JOSH: We’ve been watching your campaign. You’re doing way too well.
JOEY: Are you deranged?
JOSH: He’s a preposterous figure. We want to keep him right where he is.
JOEY: You mean you want to keep him on as a poster boy for the Radical Right?
JOSH: Joey, every time he comes out with one of his declarations about brown people crossing the border, the DNC slaps it into a direct mail campaign, and he’s good for two or three million dollars.
Yes, fundraising is important...but the point of the DNC raising money is supposed to be to elect more Democrats, not simply to raise money. In the scenario laid out above, Josh Lyman explains that the Democrats want a Democrat to lose so that the Democrats can...raise more money.
Now, in this scene's defense, this episode aired in February 2000, before the entire Republican Party went batcrap insane and turned into the unnamed GOP nutbag. At the time, I suppose there might have been some strategic benefit in the Democratic Party wanting to keep, say, Michelle Bachmann or Louie Gohmert in office as a fundraising mechanism.
Even so, this scene has been bothering me for 14 years now, for the very reason that Chuck Schumer's statement the other day illustrated.
The point of getting elected is to push forward your agenda, not to simply get elected.
And in the case of healthcare reform, the mistake that the Democrats made was not in passing it, it was that they adopted a heavily Republican plan as their own, somehow managed to make it (mostly) work...but then ran away from it afterwards.
Which parts of the ACA do people like the most (as opposed to "Obamacare" even though it's the same thing)?
- The regulations on the private corporations (no denials for pre-existing conditions, letting sub-26ers stay on their parents plans, no kicking people off their policies as long as they're paying them, requiring them to spend at least 80% of the premiums on actual healthcare, etc.)
- Tax dollars covering a portion of the cost (ie, tax credits/subsidies)
- The expansion of Medicaid
- Closing the Medicare donut hole
Notice anything about all of those things? They're all progressive policies which the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for, and the party should be very proud of them.
Which part of the ACA do people like the least (aside from the name "Obamacare", of course)?
- The individual mandate (ie, legally requiring people to buy a service from mostly private, for-profit corporations)
Yeah, that's pretty much a Republican/conservative concept: The government acting as muscle for a private/for-profit industry.
Don't get me wrong: I know that Single Payer wasn't going to happen no matter what, and even a Public Option might have been a tough sell. Personally, I never understood why they didn't simply remove the "age 65" part of Medicare (perhaps implementing it in stages, lowering the age 5 years at a time).
Still, the bottom line is that it's the progressive parts of the law which people like the most in practice, and the Democrats should be damned proud of them.
Instead, they've mostly either tried to run away from their own law or, at best, treated it like an embarrassing cousin at a family gathering: Tolerated but not embraced.
All of which may explain why there was such a need for someone like myself to try and publicly aggregate & document the ACA's progress (or, yes, lack of it in some cases) on a regular basis in the first place
instead of doing it themselves. UPDATE: Er...until today, that is. Guess I'm out of a job going forward?