Politics

10.29.13

Enough Already on HealthCare.gov. Don’t You Remember Medicare Part D?

Republicans certainly deserved a few weeks of ‘toldja so!’ about the site’s awful rollout. But why can’t they start helping their constituents figure it out now, as Democrats did with Bush’s Medicare Part D?

OK. I’ve officially had enough of this Republican gloating about HealthCare.gov. Yes, it was a major and inexcusable fiasco, as I wrote last week. So they were entitled to a week of “we told ya so.” Or even two. But really, it’s practically a month now. Enough already. I know that we expect no decency from these people, so this will sound naïve, but truly, what they should be doing now is helping their constituents figure it all out. That’s what the Democrats did in a similar situation.

I refer, of course, to the Medicare Part D implementation in late 2005 and early 2006. That was the big prescription drug bill passed in 2003. You remember—it’s the one where the Republicans didn’t have the votes in the House, even though they controlled the House, and Speaker Tom DeLay held the floor open for 15 minutes after the bell rang as his lieutenants went around and badgered and threatened some GOP members until they changed their vote from nay to aye. My, how at home DeLay would have been with the Tea Partiers.

Anyhow. Most Democrats voted against the bill. In the House just 16 of 203 Democratic members voted yes. In the Senate, however, 11 of 48 Democrats voted for the new Bush entitlement. First, let’s just stop right there. Could you imagine 16 and 11 Republicans ever voting for an Obama legislative priority, something that was clearly Obama’s “baby” in the same way that the Part D bill was Bush’s? There’d be no end to the slobbering over Republicans for being so reasonable. As I recall, the Democrats were attacked at the time for not supporting the bill enough.

So they didn’t. And then, two years later, the rollout came. It was a mess. In mid-October 2005, the Bush administration announced a delay. Reason? It was Yom Kippur, and evidently no one wanted to offend elderly Jews who wouldn’t be using their computers. Right. So it was delayed. But a month later, as Jon Perr noted recently at Crooks & Liars, the planned comparison-shopping website still wasn’t up and running. Even after it finally was, it was confusing and a mess. Some sample headlines: “Web-based Comparison of Prescription Plans Delayed,” The Washington Post; “Glitches Mar Launch of Medicare Drug Plan,” The Wall Street Journal; “President Tells Insurers to Aid Ailing Medicare Drug Plan,” The New York Times.

Needless to say, some of the same people now trying to put the hex on Obamacare spent 2006 pooh-poohing—you guessed it—“glitches,” as Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) put it back then. I’m sure they’d say they’re different things, and it’s true the Affordable Care Act is a bigger undertaking. But they’re precisely similar in spirit—big, new government programs that depended largely on citizen interaction via personal computer. And the ACA fixes what was the biggest problem created by Part D, the so-called doughnut hole in prescription drug coverage. So the Obama bill corrects what was conspicuously awful about the Bush bill. Yes, they are different!

Most Democrats voted against Medicare Part D. But they did not then sue the Bush administration and try to take the thing to the Supreme Court and get it invalidated.

But the biggest difference is not how Republicans behaved back then but how Democrats did. Most Democrats voted against the law. But they did not then sue the Bush administration and try to take the thing to the Supreme Court and get it invalidated. And then, when the start-up was a cock-up, Democrats didn’t go around saying it was proof the law had to go. They tried to fix it. Hillary Clinton, then a senator, said: “I voted against it, but once it passed I certainly determined that I would try to do everything I could to make sure that New Yorkers understood it, could access it, and make the best of it.”

Interesting, no, that we have this quote, this wholly unremarkable quote, from someone the press has described over the years as one of the most polarizing women in America. Here she was being the exact opposite of polarizing, just doing what was then her job, being a normal and rational human being and public servant. She was deciding, amazingly enough, that the needs of her senior-citizen constituents who might benefit from the law once the kinks were worked out were more important than any grudge or animus she might bear toward the sitting administration.

Her husband said it well Sunday, while campaigning with Terry McAuliffe: “But our side, we’re not so ideological. So instead of bashing them and screaming about how incompetent they were, most of our people just tried to help people understand the law and make it work, and then wait for it to get fixed.”

And yet here was Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) on TV on Sunday spouting the same oogedy-boogedy that’s been gushing from their mouths for a month. And there was Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), having no earthly idea what she was talking about on CNN. Have Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell or Sen. Rand Paul had one kind word to say for Kentucky’s by all accounts excellent implementation of the law under Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear? About 15,000 Kentuckians had enrolled as of last week. I just wonder if a single one of them got a helping hand from staffers for McConnell or Paul.

It’s yet another stomach-turning state of affairs. I’m sick and tired of hearing it. Obamacare is an existential threat to their Weltanschauung, their idea of America? Grow up and get over it. It’s just politics. You lost a political fight. You may someday win it, but until the day you do, behave like adults. And like democrats (and Democrats, the 2006 variety). And for God’s sake, put your sick constituents’ needs ahead of your racial paranoia about the president. Enough, enough, enough.