Keith Downey on Obamacare

Obamacare is showing the markings of a failed initiative.

When you see a wisp of smoke rising from the forest, odds are there’s a growing fire underneath. Obamacare is no different. Breaking his own law to delay Obamacare’s employer mandate was neither strategic nor a political stroke of brilliance by the president, despite the White House spin.

Obamacare’s implementation seems to be following a predictable pattern that we’ve seen in other big-ticket government programs. Feature reductions come first, followed by extensions of deadlines. Costs go up. The other party is blamed. Then failures are magically rebranded as successes. Soon, calls for even more time are issued, then for more money. Other units of government or the private sector are blamed.

Eventually, citizens get blamed, and then the sure sign of failure: Others in your own party get blamed. Finally, there are calls to replace it with another venture, perhaps even bigger but just as destined to fail.

The blaze under the Obamacare forest canopy appears to be growing. Consider:

• The price for individual coverage is projected to go up substantially. People will be forced to purchase more coverage than they might want or need.

• The employer mandate is too complicated to implement. Delaying employer provisions may seem like a short-term gain, but delaying violates the law itself — and if it’s too complicated now, how will they simplify it in the future?

• Individual applications for subsidies will be self-attested because the verification process is not ready. Eligibility for subsidies, typically via an extensive verification process, simply will be granted to anyone applying.

• Hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent to create government-run insurance exchanges that won’t be fully ready, even though exchanges are already successfully operating in the private sector.

• Young people and healthy individuals won’t sign up. The sickest will sign up because their costs presumably go down. But if you are healthy or young, the individual market will be far cheaper. Absent the young and healthy in the group, the price for the sickest will of necessity go up, too.

• We have no idea how much Obamacare will really cost. Estimates already are wildly higher than originally promised.

Conservatives rightly object to Obamacare’s massive intrusion of the federal government into 14 percent of the economy. We rightly object to bureaucratic rules dictating the decisions you make with your doctor. But pragmatists, and even good-government liberals, should take note of the obvious indications that this massive program is on its heels.

Yet, while the latest announcements seem to confirm our worst fears, don’t bet on Obamacare’s demise. After a long period of incremental bad news, beware when they come back and tell us we have to go to a single-payer system.

That may have been the goal all along.

Reprinted from the Rochester Post-Bulletin, July 12, 2013

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