This week a Republican friend of mine sent me an email asking why I had suddenly gone silent on Obamacare, except he called it Nobamacare, and went on to gloat about how it was a disaster. Other than the fact that I have written about it, what struck me was the barely hidden sense of glee in his message. He was taking pure pleasure in the ACA's rollout problems.
The glitches with the HealthCare.gov website and the abrupt cancellation of insurance policies for some Americans are certainly problems that need to be addressed, but they are by no means a death sentence for the landmark law and nor are they as calamitous as the GOP would like us to believe they are.
As for the website, the glitches are hardly something to be up in arms about. Yes, it is frustrating for people but the problems will be fixed and the website will work in short order. My email system goes down every few weeks but that does not mean I give up using email. It is simply the price we pay for the convenience of being able to do things remotely via computers. Technology is great but it is not infallible.
And then there are the insurance cancellations. That is admittedly a bigger problem but it is still being miscast in its presentation to the public. For one thing, the cancellations themselves were really automatic rollovers of customers into more expensive plans, which is highly inconvenient but not a dead end. People who do not want the pricier plans can still find cheaper options through the Obamacare marketplace, and so the real issue here is one of timing (and a lack of transparency on the part of the insurance companies who pulled this stunt). That does not mean everyone will find a cheaper plan, but the plans themselves will be better because of the ACA's other requirements such as more comprehensive coverage (including for pre-existing conditions), elimination of lifetime limits, banning of discrimination based on health etc.
The other thing is that the number of Americans affected by this unintended consequence is at worst about 12 million (the more conservative the source the higher that number magically gets, although a more realistic estimate is probably 5 million). That is a big number until you consider that currently 47 million people cannot get or afford insurance of any kind. Perhaps we should ask those people if a law that has caused a blip (and possibly a false blip assuming that a number of those who were suddenly dumped into more expensive plans will find cheaper options through the marketplace) but can help the majority of uninsured citizens obtain some type of much-needed health coverage is 'working'?
The Republican plan, which is basically no plan, would leave those 47 million people out in the cold permanently, and so for them to take pleasure in the growing pains of the ACA and to politicize them is just more of the callousness and selfishness we have come to expect from that party.
The ACA is just fine. It is not perfect, but no major change to a system that is as vast and as dysfunctional as the healthcare system in the United States is, can be. It is in its infancy right now and as such deserves some room to be allowed to work. That does not mean, of course, that the White House should turn a blind eye to issues, but then again it is not doing that. The President has already imposed a stay of one year on the provision of the ACA that led to the so-called cancellations, and that will at least buy valuable time for those Americans who are affected to find better options.
The only thing that could get in the way of the law succeeding, in fact, is the endless sadism of the GOP. As the recent government shutdown illustrated vividly, the Republicans are no longer interested in governing at all, let alone helping average Americans. They want only one thing, and that is to usurp as much power as they possibly can, and to hurt the Democrats even at the expense of destroying the nation; and their weapon of choice (at least at the moment) is the destruction of Obamacare.
If that is not bad for America's health, I don't know what is.
SANJAY SANGHOEE is a political and business commentator. He has worked at leading investment banks Lazard Freres and Dresdner, as well as at multi-billion dollar hedge fund Ramius. He has appeared on CNBC's 'Closing Bell', TheStreet.com, and HuffPost Live on business topics, and is the author of two thriller novels.
For more information, please visit www.sanghoee.com