“So it appears that, by the end of the month,” New York‘s Jonathan Chait wrote about Healthcare.gov on November 11, “the administration will be facing a new political fiasco or will have delivered a Hanukkah-time miracle.”
On December 25th we can say that a miracle has more or less occurred.
Healthcare.gov’s performance wasn’t flawless by any metric. But it did what it needed to do: the site worked for most everyone who needed it, despite huge bursts of traffic, especially over the past few days. Anticipating the demand would impact the site’s performance, the administration cannily extended the deadline by a day on December 23 and those who started the process but didn’t complete it yet still may be able to get covered by January 1.
How do we know the website is successful? We’re not seeing frantic reports of thousands of desperate people being denied the chance to purchase coverage, which is the “political fiasco” Chait imagined. (Still, given how many people this law affects, some horror stories are still inevitable.)
After two months of heartache, the government proved it was able to deliver a solution that help well over a million Americans pick a plan and millions more get signed up for Medicaid or SCHIP.
Now the goal is to have an actual debate the law’s merits and not just the dysfunction of the marketplaces (which unfortunately still persists in states like Maryland and Oregon, which is why their deadlines were extended).
You know what the Republican game plan will be blame every problem in the health care system on Obamacare. They’ll do this even though all the problems they’ll bring up — rising costs, high deductibles, shrinking coverage networks — are prevalent in the pre-ACA system they’re trying to bring back.
What should Democrats be pointing out?
Tell the stories of the millions being denied coverage by Republicans rejecting Medicaid expansion. Highlight the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans with pre-existing conditions who now have coverage. Revel in the low prices most middle class workers are paying for coverage.
Democrats also need to prepare for Republican continued attempts to maim the law by proposing fixes of their own. Greg Sargent keeps pointing out that most Americans favor keeping and fixing the law.
These tweaks can include increased tax credits or tax breaks for older Americans who are on the “subsidy cliff” and ways to help those in the Medicaid “coverage cap.” Progressives could even get creative and demand a public option for those older consumers or in any state where there is less than three insurers offer competing plans.
The President was deserving of scorn for the failure to launch the website effectively.
Now that there has been a major turnaround, few will be rushing to praise him because this miracle was necessary to save his signature legislative accomplishment. But when you think about how badly this could have all turned out, this is a true tale of redemption worthy of a holiday movie.
[CC image credit: Will O’Neill | Flickr.]