Friday, November 15, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

Sometimes we get to the end of a week, and our staff has to laugh about how everything played out that week, in positive yet unexpected ways. Of course, we're talking primarily about President Obama's "fix" to the Affordable Care Act, which he announced at a press conference on Thursday.

The way everyone in the media seems to refer to the latest tweak to Obamacare as a "fix" led us to think of an old phrase we've mentioned here previously, that many of our readers think of as Nebraska's unofficial motto. That motto is simple: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it IS broke, fix it - just once."

That "fix" that President Obama announced on Thursday seems to fall into the category of things that need to be fixed once and fixed right - even though, as Jamelle Bouie noted Thursday afternoon, Obamacare wasn't really broken. Still, as the President contritely admitted Thursday afternoon, many critics of Obamacare were angry they couldn't keep their plans and both he and Congressional Democrats felt like they were about to be pummeled by the problems in the rollout of Obamacare.

Of course, as we noted yesterday, having a plan beats having no plan almost every time, even if that plan needs to be tweaked from time to time.

In short, the tweak or "fix" President Obama instituted isn't a legislative repair, but an administrative move, one that gives health insurance companies nationwide the flexibility to extend current insurance plans for one year. That extension applies especially to those insurance plans that don't currently meet the new higher minimum quality standards of the ACA.

The single "catch" to the President's fix is that insurance companies must now be the "bad guys," telling their customers - customers keeping their old, lower-quality plans - exactly what those plans are missing compared to what plans under the ACA will provide.

Obama's action also falls into the category of "administrative changes" to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act - so what the President did is fully legal, as Greg Sargent confirmed.

If you didn't know better, you might think President Obama's action to fix the Obamacare rollout would make insurers happy. After all, the insurance companies are getting exactly what they asked for - which, of course, is why they're so pissed off right now.

In fact, as Evan McMorris Santoro noted for Buzzfeed on Thursday, insurers almost immediately began ripping the White House's Obamacare fix. It turns out that, even though corporate insurance executives and insurance company executives were demanding an immediate fix, as Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic pointed out, you can't just 'restore' cancelled health insurance plans.

We are absolutely certain President Obama knew that even a seemingly minor change couldn't happen overnight. Brian Beutler of Salon seems to agree with us, noting that President Obama's fix wasn't really to settle the concerns of a minority of upset Americans. It was "a justified comeuppance" to ungrateful insurance companies that were trying to screw over their customers in a new way, yet blame President Obama and Democrats for their smarmy actions.

As President Obama proved on Thursday, when Democrats stop freaking out about Obamacare, take charge, and face down the bullies, things actually turn out much better than most of the screaming pundits usually think it will.

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