The word “glitch” hasn’t been heard lately from Democrats. After months of pretending the problems with ObamaCare could be dismissed as mere glitches on an otherwise perfectly functional website, the party has lately adopted a stance in which the president’s signature health-care legislation is considered to have transcended its rough rollout. The president’s State of the Union address not only glossed over the disastrous start to the law’s implementation but also, in another now familiar Democratic meme, treated the debate about the issue as finished. But unfortunately for his party, the latest batch of ObamaCare problems may serve not only to revive the discussion about the wisdom of the law but also severely damage the electoral prospects of Democrats whose names are, unlike that of the president, on the ballot this November.
As the New York Times reports today, a new series of what it describes as “glitches” are creating difficulties not only for the implementation of a law that has already faced severe challenges but also an issue that could determine the outcome of some state races in what otherwise might be considered blue states. As the Times notes:
Republicans have seized on the failures of homegrown exchanges in states like Maryland, Minnesota and Oregon — all plagued by technological problems that have kept customers unhappy and enrollment goals unmet — and promise to use the issue against Democratic candidates for governor and legislative seats this fall.
Anger over ObamaCare and the incompetent manner with which state exchanges—which Democrats said would be the great success story of the misnamed Affordable Care Act—are failing customers in Maryland or Oregon but may not be enough to disillusion enough blue state voters to win those states for the GOP. But, as the Times concedes, the problems may be enough to help tip gubernatorial and legislative races in Minnesota into the Republican column. Though Democrats seem to be in a state of denial about public unhappiness about a law that most Americans never wanted in the first place, the issue continues to simmer on both the national and local levels.
Like President Obama, Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Mark Dayton believes he can overcome the outrage caused by the failures of the state ObamaCare exchange he has championed. But the MNsure program is plagued by software defects and is still dysfunctional, making it unlikely that enough people will be enrolled in Minnesota to make the plan fiscally sound. Just as Obama did when the federal Heatlhcare.gov website wasn’t working, Dayton is taking “responsibility” for the problem while also try to deflect blame for the fiasco on everyone else. Though he entered this election cycle as a big favorite to win reelection, the state exchange problem has handed Republicans an issue that could change the dynamic of the race as well as affecting state legislative contests.
In response, Dayton has been reading from the president’s playbook, citing those who are being helped by ObamaCare while not acknowledging the large pool of citizens who have lost the policies they were told they could keep and are facing higher premiums and coverage that doesn’t suit their needs. His assumption is that referring to the mess at the exchange as a “glitch” will be enough to get a pass on an issue that, like the president, he would like to ignore in 2014.
But Dayton and Obama—and Congressional Democrats who are saddled with the problem of running this year—all seem to be ignoring the fact that the problem with the health-care law transcends computer glitches. In Minnesota, as well as elsewhere, ObamaCare has benefitted those with pre-existing conditions and the poor who are now getting insurance they might not have obtained without it. But it has also created a new interest group that may turn out to be just as large, if not larger, than the ObamaCare winners: the ObamaCare losers. These are the people who are losing their policies, being forced to change doctors, and facing higher costs for coverage that—contrary to the Democratic talking point about ObamaCare canceling only “junk” insurance—isn’t as good as what they had before. As more Americans, including those whose employer-based plans are being affected by the altered insurance environment created by ObamaCare, face similar problems, the number in the “loser” group is increasing. That creates an unhealthy political climate for Democrats at every level who bet their careers on the law but who now wish only to change the subject to a discussion about income inequality or anything they hope will divert the public from ObamaCare.
Moving on from discussing ObamaCare makes sense to a Democratic Party that understands it is saddled with sole responsibility for a measure that is causing economic pain that may well offset any good it has done. But the problematic state exchanges are just one more reason they won’t be able to duck, hide and change the subject.