A funny thing is happening on the way to universal popularity and acceptance for the president’s signature health-care legislation. No, I’m not referring to the dysfunctional website that turned ObamaCare and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius into a laughingstock. As bad as the website’s problems have been and continue to be, the growing coverage of Americans who have lost their coverage as a result of the new law, as well as the higher costs many, if not most of them are now facing, poses a far greater danger to ObamaCare’s supporters.
The key to understanding the strategy employed by the administration is their total faith in the idea that although the rollout might be problematic, once it is implemented the new benefits granted to poor Americans would become so popular as to make it untouchable. Like Social Security and Medicare, they reasoned that the reality of ObamaCare would render it invulnerable to criticism, let alone repeal. That was a belief shared by Republicans who feared the same thing and clearly impelled Tea Party supporters to back a government shutdown as a last-ditch attempt to derail the law. But the drip-drip of stories about those who are ObamaCare losers is showing that both liberals and conservatives may have been dead wrong about the bill’s staying power.
An example of this comes today from, of all places, the New York Times op-ed page where psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb writes about the misfortune of being a self-employed person whose insurance was dropped and then replaced with a new plan that cost her a whopping $5,400 extra per annum. As she writes, her new coverage is “better” as President Obama and his apologists keep insisting, but that comes with a few caveats:
Now if I have Stage 4 cancer or need a sex-change operation, I’d be covered regardless of pre-existing conditions. Never mind that the new provider network would eliminate coverage for my and my son’s long-term doctors and hospitals.
This complaint is acknowledged by yet another pro-ObamaCare editorial published by the same newspaper that finally acknowledged that millions of Americans are going to be adversely affected by the plan. The Times assures us that those who are being inconvenienced by liberal largesse are better off in the long run, but even if they are not, they are confident that “not all … will necessarily be upset” about it. But as the number of ObamaCare losers grows as the effects are gradually felt throughout the health-care system, that faith may prove to be misplaced. As more people like Gottlieb voice their grievances, the notion that the law is irrevocable may prove to be a myth.
Gottlieb, who clearly is part of a liberal milieu, complains that few in her circle are particularly sympathetic. Most seem to think that helping the poor is worth the cost of bilking those who are somewhat better off. Judging by the reaction of her 1,000-plus Facebook friends, her statement that “the president should be protecting the middle class, not making our lives substantially harder” isn’t getting much traction. But it would be foolish for anyone, especially those working hard to silence such complaints, to think that public opinion, which polls show has always viewed ObamaCare negatively, will react in the same way.
This is a critical point. So long as the discussion about ObamaCare was one pitting conservative complaints about an unconstitutional power grab by the federal government and the perils of moving a step closer to socialized medicine against the well being of the poor and the uninsured, both Democrats and Republicans were probably right to think that implementation would be the effective end of the debate. But, to the surprise of both the left and the right, the discussion has moved from economic and constitutional principles to something more visceral and far more dangerous to the president’s plans. Once those opposing ObamaCare are able to use that magic phrase, “protecting the middle class” in the context of opposing liberal projects rather than in defense of them, a tipping point may have been reached.
Lori Gottlieb’s liberal Facebook friends may not think her plight is worth caring about. But the critical mass of voters will always be moved to anger against anything that is perceived as an attack on the vast middle class that forms the majority of the electorate and the backbone of American society.
Americans are a goodhearted and generous people. That’s why the Times thinks they will absorb this blow without much complaint because creating a new federal “health care safety net” is worth it. But unlike previous federal entitlements that expanded benefits for many and hurt few, ObamaCare is predicated on a very different formula that may, despite the Times’s assurances, hurt as many, if not more, people than it helps. That is something very different from Social Security or even Medicare. Like the corruption and the social pathologies bred by the welfare state that liberals have also urged Americans to accept whether they like it or not, this makes ObamaCare a subject for permanent debate and possible repeal. Conservatives who acted rashly out of despair this fall need to understand that when Obama loses the Lori Gottliebs of this world, liberalism starts to lose.