As much of the media fixates on the horrendous, embarrassing rollout of the Obamacare exchanges, Democrats seem to be getting cold feet about the individual mandate component of the controversial law and the penalties it prescribes. Some Democrats are calling for a temporary delay in the enrollment period and on the fines uninsured people would have to pay. When Republicans were calling for these changes a few weeks ago, they were described as terrorists with explosives strapped to their chest; anarchists who despised the rule of law. It will be interesting to see what accusations Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid levels against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who is leading the Democratic charge to delay.
Shaheen issued a letter this week criticizing the Obamacare exchanges and interfaces. “For over three years, we have been waiting for the creation of the health insurance exchanges, which now in their fourth week of existence, are riddled with problems,” said Shaheen. She’s been joined by Democrat Sens. Mark Pryor, Mark Begich, Mary Landrieu, and Kay Hagan, who are all critical of the implementation of Healthcare.gov and the telephone servers, which have been the targets of massive criticism and lampooning over the past week. Obamacare is receiving so much negative feedback that the president had to take to the Rose Garden to sell “the product,” prompting Jon Stewart to compare him to a snake oil salesman.
This criticism is a bit surprising coming from politicians and pundits who, during the recent shutdown, were relatively silent as negotiations pattered out. When continuing resolutions were passed by the House that funded government while also delaying Obamacare’s individual mandate or adjusting the schedule of implementation, the aforementioned senators voted along party lines to reject the measures, giving them scarcely a moment’s consideration. Analysts had been predicting problems with Obamacare, to the point that the president had already controversially approved a one-year delay on the mandate for certain businesses. Did these lawmakers need to wait for a budget to find their backbone? And what about the White House, which a few weeks ago was taking a hard line against any attempts to change Obamacare? We will not negotiate, they said, and yet White House Press Secretary Tim Carney is now hinting that the president would be open to delaying the issuance of penalties.
Another issue with Obamacare that received bipartisan condemnation—at least before the shutdown—was the medical devices tax. Ezra Klein invoked market principles in his half-hearted criticism of the tax, suggesting that “[i]t will cost some jobs. It will force some firms to go under and others to offshore jobs.” Klein goes for full coercion in his next sentence—“It would be much better to tax something broad that we want less of, like carbon or high-speed financial transactions”—but at least we know that he cares. And there are lawmakers like Elizabeth Warren who wouldn’t even consider a CR that included a repeal of the tax, but vocally denounced the tax when there was no shutdown in the works. Perhaps the medical devices tax will be one of the first aspects of Obamacare to hit the chopping block now that the demagogues in Congress have learned that it’s cool not to like Obamacare. Thanks Jon Stewart, you Tea Party anarchist!