The Health Care Numbers Are Stacked Against Obama
From its inception, everything about President Barack Obama’s health care law has been controversial.
The latest controversy came with the government release of new numbers. Through February, 4.2 million Americans had signed up for health insurance on the government exchanges. Supporters believe that while the numbers are lower than they’d hoped, the problem was simply a poor website rollout.
Critics contended that perhaps a million of those who enrolled shouldn’t be counted because they haven’t paid their premiums. That means the official numbers are overstated and will almost certainly be revised downward by a wide margin. Additionally, it appears that the vast majority of those signing up had insurance before the president’s law was passed. Only about a million were previously uninsured.
Both sides are so busy arguing the details that they’ve missed the larger picture. It’s not how they spin the numbers that matters; it’s the reality of how the numbers affect the American people. From that perspective, the numbers are far more troubling for Obama’s team.
While political insiders debate the significance of the 4.2 million people that enrolled through the exchanges, 10 times as many have either been forced into a new plan or been notified that their plans will have to change. That number is certain to grow. Some will find comparable plans, and some won’t. All are nervous.
Obama supporters dismiss these concerns because they believe the new insurance coverage will be superior. In some cases, they will be right. But they seem to think that having the government mandate a product that is better for some is more important than letting individuals choose their own insurance plans. A recent New York Times column, written by an Obama adviser involved in designing the law, went so far as to say, “In health care, choice is overrated.”
That attitude is the heart of the problems facing the health care law in the real world. Americans are used to making such choices on their own. If, for example, people had a choice between paying a lower premium and having to switch doctors, many people would select that option. Others would choose to keep their doctors and pay more. Being able to decide is more important than the end result.
And the vast majority of Americans believe they have the right to do so. Another New York Times column, by David Brooks, correctly noted that “millions of Americans — and not just Tea Party types — do not accept the legitimacy of the government to overrule individual decisions, even on something like health insurance.”
The political problems for Democrats are compounded by a reality that every retailer knows. Disgruntled customers are nine times as likely to talk about their experiences as happy customers. For the president’s law, that means most Americans are far more likely to hear of unhappy encounters with the new health care law than anything else. Personal testimonies of troubles will be seen as far more credible than media coverage or political rhetoric.
Obama’s law has upset tens of millions of Americans by eliminating their right to choose while providing insurance for perhaps a million previously uninsured Americans. Those are the numbers that spell trouble for the Democrats in November.