BY TOM COLE
Since its passage and throughout the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, nothing has gone as promised, planned or expected by President Obama. Instead, the entire country has watched him try to dodge or make excuses for every barricade or bump along the road. Each roadblock has led Americans to seriously question the president’s ability to lead and lowered confidence in his promises.
Republicans have warned about the unworkable, unfair nature of Obamacare since it was passed. Not one Republican ever voted for it, and since taking back the House majority, members have consistently voted for full or partial-repeal bills to lessen the harmful impact on Americans. In fact, seven of the partial-repeal bills have been passed by the Senate and signed into law by the president.
However, since the law wasn’t implemented right away, the problems associated with it were not felt immediately. During the three years after passage, ample time for roll-out preparation, Americans just kept hearing promises and assurances from the president in response to every concern, including his now-infamous words, “If you like your health plan, you can keep it.” Not surprisingly, we’ve discovered this isn’t and was never meant to be the case.
But the first real signal of the White House acknowledging the law’s problems came in July of this summer when the Administration announced a one-year delay of the employer mandate. While this news eliminated the burdensome, expensive requirement placed on businesses to provide healthcare during 2014, individuals are still expected and required to purchase insurance or face fines. As I have said before, it is hypocritical and unfair for the president to give businesses a break and ignore individuals.
On October 1, the healthcare law saw an entirely new set of problems abound with the launch of HealthCare.gov—a site that was clearly not ready for primetime. During the first month, the site was unable to handle high traffic, save most user information or provide helpful customer service, resulting in few people actually signing up for coverage. In fact, just last week, official enrollment numbers revealed that only 106,185 Americans selected a plan in October. Out of that number, only 346 Oklahomans selected a plan.
In addition to the failed website launch, shortly after the exchange opened, an estimated 3.5 million individuals began receiving cancellation notices of their health plans. Rightly so, this frustrated and angered individuals who were promised they could keep coverage if they were already satisfied. When asked for a response, the president said earlier this month, “I regret that we weren’t as clear as we needed to be in terms of the changes that were taking place… I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me”
This apology was too little, too late and didn’t sit well with Republicans and Democrats alike. In fact, even former President Clinton called upon President Obama for a solution, “I personally believe even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”
With millions of unhappy Americans whose plans were cancelled and after the announcement of very poor enrollment numbers, the president finally acknowledged the need to fix the cancelled coverage situation. During a press conference on Thursday, he offered yet another delay by saying insurance companies could continue offering plans next year that otherwise would have been cancelled under the law’s requirements.
During Thursday’s press conference at the White House, the president said, “There are all kinds of challenges, and I’m sure more challenges to come up.” Now I’m in favor of making the president stay true to his promises and helping him make changes to this broken law, but he cannot pick and choose which portions he wants to implement without consulting Congress. The legislative branch is responsible for passing and amending laws, and this authority must be preserved.
So far, Obamacare has experienced roadblocks and delays at every turn. With each problem, the president either refuses to take full responsibility or claims he wasn’t aware of the situation. America needs and deserves better leadership than that.