Richmond Times-Dispatch Frees GOP Of Blame In Obamacare Rollout


The Richmond Times-Dispatch said Republican "political arguments" should not be blamed for the initial failures of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite the GOP's goal of obstructing of the law, hindering its rollout.

In a November 25 editorial discussing the ACA's rollout, the editorial board claimed that "political arguments" and "Republican boilerplate against the ACA" did not contribute to the failures of the rollout. From the Times-Dispatch:

Although President Barack Obama has accepted responsibility (sort of) for Obamacare's disastrous start, he continues to point fingers at others.

The Washington Post's Dana Milbank notes that Obama has whined about Republicans and the press. He has implied that GOP demands to repeal the Affordable Care Act have undermined the program's efficiency. Oh? Political arguments have no bearing on the mechanics of running Obamacare. Republican boilerplate against the ACA did not contribute to the fiasco. Conservatives may be reveling in the aftermath, but they did not cause the systemic failures.

The editorial fails to note the multiple instances of Republican obstructionism that have led to some of the problems with the law's implementation. As a November 1 Politico article noted, one of the causes of the flawed rollout was "calculated sabotage by Republicans at every step." The piece continued:

From the moment the bill was introduced, Republican leaders in both houses of Congress announced their intention to kill it. Republican troops pressed this cause all the way to the Supreme Court -- which upheld the law, but weakened a key part of it by giving states the option to reject an expansion of Medicaid. The GOP faithful then kept up their crusade past the president's reelection, in a pattern of "massive resistance" not seen since the Southern states' defiance of the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

The opposition was strategic from the start: Derail President Barack Obama's biggest ambition, and derail Obama himself. Party leaders enforced discipline, withholding any support for the new law -- which passed with only Democratic votes, thus undermining its acceptance. Partisan divisions also meant that Democrats could not pass legislation smoothing out some rough language in the draft bill that passed the Senate. That left the administration forced to fill far more gaps through regulation than it otherwise would have had to do, because attempts -- usually routine -- to re-open the bill for small changes could have led to wholesale debate in the Senate all over again.

These efforts were coupled with GOP governors' refusals to expand Medicaid, set up their own exchanges, or even educate the public about the law by blocking its so-called "navigators," who help people enroll in insurance, from doing their jobs. In addition, congressional Republicans blocked attempts to fund the creation of the federal insurance exchange while pressuring states to rely on those same federal exchanges.

As NPR explained in a report on the political environment that preceded the rollout of the federal exchange, officials spent much of the time since the legislation passed in 2010 waiting to see if the Supreme Court would support the Republican effort to overturn the law or if a Republican would win the 2012 presidential election and repeal it, as candidate Mitt Romney promised.

Even as the law is being implemented, House Republicans have tried to stop the law: 40 of them filed a brief earlier this month supporting yet another a legal challenge to the law.

Despite this, the law is working. The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff reported on a "November surge" in which enrollment in state-run exchanges has almost doubled. The federally run site has also increased capacity and is expected to be able to handle a year-end crush.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Richmond Times-Dispatch
State Media
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