A new scandal is brewing in Washington, D.C. Maybe it will be called “Obamacare gate.” Or maybe “Healthecare.gov-gate.” Or perhaps “Fast and Furious-Benghazi-Obamacare-gate.”
Regardless of the name, House Republicans are pursuing a full investigation into why Healthcare.gov is not functioning properly. And they are right on this one: The website is a mess. The news that only six people signed up on the first day is pathetic.
But let’s be honest: House Republicans feigning concern for people unable to sign up for Obamacare is so hypocritical, it’s comedic. It would be like hearing Ted Cruz complain: “Why won’t the media just won’t leave me alone?” during a 21-hour filibuster. After all, these House Republicans are the same people who just led the charge to close down the federal government because they view Obamacare a greater threat to Americans than E. coli.
During this week’s congressional hearings on the Obamacare website problem, I was really hoping at least one House Republican would have the integrity to ask this: Why can’t our constituents sign up for a program that we voted 42 times to repeal or dismantle?
But these hearings are not intended to get Obamacare working; their purpose is to bury it. House Speaker John Boehner made that clear this week with his comment regarding Obamacare: “There is no way to fix this monstrosity.” And Republican Congressman Fred Upton explained that the purpose of these congressional hearings was simply this: “What we’re trying to figure out is how did all this taxpayer money get wasted and what is their remedy?”
Wednesday’s hearing took an even more surreal Watergate-esque turn. During the testimony of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Republican Rep. Greg Harper pressed her several times to “admit” that President Obama was ultimately responsible for the Obamacare website problems. I kept waiting for Harper to pose the famous Watergate scandal question: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?”
How far are we from Republicans calling for the impeachment of President Obama over Obamacare? You can actually see the seeds being planted by certain House Republicans—like majority leader Eric Cantor—who have begun to “wonder out loud” whether Obama knew that many people would lose their current insurance plans when Obamacare took effect, but misled Americans by promising that wouldn’t occur. People like Rep. Adam Kinzinger say that this is a question of Obama’s “openness and honesty to the American people.” I just keep waiting for them to try to link Hillary Clinton to the website fiasco.
Bottom line: If insurance premiums drop, the popularity of Obamacare will rise. It’s really that simple.
It’s clear that House Republicans will not rest until Obamacare is repealed. And I’m no a psychologist, but their negative obsession seems unhealthy. Perhaps they need counseling—which they could likely qualify for if they signed up for Obamacare.
But I have news for House Republicans that may help them more than years of psychotherapy or a crate of Paxil: You may still win. And by “win,” I mean Obamacare may in fact be dismantled, overhauled, or even possibly repealed in the years to come.
How can I say this? Because we still don’t know how effective the program will be once it’s fully implemented. One of the biggest questions is whether enough people sign up so that the program can actually operate as intended.
As a practical matter, the key to the success of the law will be this: How does it effect health-insurance premiums? Will Obamacare actually reduce rates for millions of Americans? Will it effect someone like myself who pays high monthly premiums even though, thankfully, I rarely visit the doctor? Bottom line: If insurance premiums drop, the popularity of Obamacare will rise. It’s really that simple.
Conversely, if insurance rates continue to rise, website problems persist, and people truly are unhappy with their health-insurance coverage under Obamacare, Republicans may in fact prevail, born out in the 2014 congressional elections and beyond.
So there you go, House Republicans. You still have a chance at your dreams—but it will take time. In the interim, however, can someone please put some Valium in the water served at the next House Republican Caucus? Maybe then we can finally determine if Obamacare actually works before they waste more of our tax dollars voting to repeal it for 43rd time.