The troubles with Obamacare have really changed the media narrative. For roughly four years, the repeated caricature of Republican opposition to the Affordable Care Act was as an “obsession” with politics, with beating a Democratic president. Why the obsession? Move along, silly Neanderthals!
Then came the Sebeliusian debacle, a.k.a. Day One launch of healthcare.gov, the Orwellian-named marketplace. They promised it was ready. Testing, insufficient and pathetically minimal as it was, had failed, but they just lied about that (maybe to the President, definitely to the people). They even knew that users’ personal information would not be secure. But they launched anyway. Why? Well, the media is now getting around to understanding why. The Obama administration launched healthcare.gov because they had to.
Cancellation notices were already on the way to millions of Americans. Remember how the White House said in the days after Oct. 1 that Obamacare was “more than a website.” Now you know what they meant. They weren’t just promising new boats, but they were burning the old boats, too. Perhaps there is a better analogy for this key aspect of Obamacare, which journalists are suddenly realizing validates exactly what Republicans warned would happen. It wan’t just market logic that would cause people to lose their existing plans, it was the written intent of the ACA, as revealed in the thicket of implementing regulations and internal memos. Millions of Americans were to be forced off their existing plans.
The reason, I think, this new narrative has such power is because it isn’t the kind of anecdotal story that a journalists has to dig up. This is happening in the newsroom. The Channel Five Eyewitness van and camera crew don’t have to drive far for this story. Because so many people in the modern news business are independent contractors, they are right in the path of Hurricane Obama. Without boats! Wait, analogy alert, is there some better way to think about this? In my obsessive reading on the topic, the best analogy I’ve found is Deroy Murdock’s brilliant baseball ticket riff over at National Review:
Dear Orioles fan:
It is our duty to inform you that you no longer will be able to sit in the bleachers at Camden Yards. Seats in this section have been cancelled, due to the Essential Spectator Benefits of the Affordable Sports Act (a.k.a. Obamasports).
We encourage you to visit Sports.gov, where you can shop for tickets that comply with these new, federally mandated minimum standards.
The faux letter just get funnier, so read the whole thing.
Ultimately, serious policymakers (and scared politicians) will do the right thing and allow Americans to have their health freedom back. The boats will never be unburned — that damage is real — but I expect centrist Democrats will vote with Republican colleagues to allow any health insurance to count as qualifying. The face-saving trade may be that the individual mandate remains in effect, but what qualifies as a minimum standard will be drastically lowered. Basically, anything that isn’t fraudulent will be allowed. That means young, healthy, single, non-smoking, drug-free Americans can get true insurance against catastrophes for very low prices. It won’t cover maternity, or mental health, and may not even reimburse anything you might think of as regular maintenance on the body. It will just cover low-probability events like cancer and deadly accidents. Real insurance doesn’t pay for oil changes, let alone gas. It pays for crashes. So, thanks to the ACA debacle, we may see the emergence of a true marketplace for health insurance.