SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obamacare Website to New Yorker: Drop Dead

This week, we wrap up a personal saga of bureaucratic incompetence and institutional corruption: my attempt to sign up for Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act officially launched three weeks ago. As one of 50 million uninsured Americans, I’ll pay a tax penalty unless I purchase for-profit insurance from a wildly profitable corporation (the healthcare sector pays its CEOs the highest salaries) via my state’s “health insurance marketplace.”

Alas, my first attempt to shop for a plan ended four hours into the process, when New York’s website crashed and ate most of my info. Two weeks later, I was able to register. But the system couldn’t tell me if I’d qualify for a subsidy, or whether any of the plans cover my doctor or local hospital.

As the leaves pile up and I head out to buy a last-minute discount pumpkin just in time for Halloween, will the system work — the one that was supposed to launch three weeks ago? Let’s find out.

Fortunately for President Obama, his Republican rivals were so busy committing electoral suicide by shutting down and pushing the federal government to the brink of default that no one noticed his lame excuses — “we expected glitches” — for his incredibly shitty websites.

“These are not glitches,” an insurance executive told Forbes. “The extent of the problems is pretty enormous.”

Hey, it’s not like they had three years to get ready.

Now Obama says: “I am the first to acknowledge that the website that was supposed to do this all in a seamless way has had way more glitches than I think are acceptable and we’ve got people working around the clock to do that.” Which is totally true, if by “first to acknowledge,” Obama means “fifty millionth to acknowledge after stonewalling and refusing to admit anything’s wrong.”

OK, so the president is a liar. But then he says “people” are “working around the clock” to make things work “in a seamless way.” Which inspires me with confidence. After all, I’m a person. “People” are members of my own same species. We’re on the same team!

I’ll admit, though, I’m not exactly Hoping for a big bucket of Change.

Like Mulder, I want to believe. The problem is, two days ago, The Newspaper of Record printed an article that, among other things, says:

“Most of the 15 exchanges run by states and the District of Columbia do not have provider directories or search tools on their Web sites — at least not yet — so customers cannot easily check which doctors and hospitals are included in a particular plan’s network. Most allow customers to search for providers by linking to the insurers’ Web sites, but the information is not always accurate or easy to navigate, health care experts say.”

Well, let’s see for ourselves, shall we?

Log in: no problem.

Take that, Tea Party Patriots!

The last time I slogged through this process, I wasn’t able to find out whether I’d qualify for a subsidy. So I’m on tenterhooks. Am I poor enough, have enough newspapers canceled me, slashed my fee and/or kept me at the same rate for years as inflation ate away my standard of living to score a break on Obama’s for-profit healthcare mandate?

I click the tab marked “financial assistance.” Fortunately, all the information I spent hours typing in a week and a half ago is still there. Inexplicably, however, I have to scroll through each page, individually re-approving them. There are 28 of them in all. Terrible design. What is this, iOS7?

The little wheel turns. And turns. Is it working? Yes! I get a message:

“You and your family cannot pick a health plan right now. You will get a letter or an email telling you when to log onto your Marketplace account to pick a health plan. Call 1-855-355-5777 to find out how to pick your plan if the Marketplace has not contacted you by the middle of December 2013.”

Thus endeth my adventure with the Great Privatized Healthcare Marketplace Experiment of 2013. Which, apparently, will soon become the Great Privatized Healthcare Marketplace Experiment of 2014. Or 2015. Whichever comes last. Or ever.

Which really sucks.

It sucks for two reasons:

First, like 50 million other Americans, I really do need insurance. Like most cartoonists and writers, I work for a syndicate that considers me an “independent contractor” for tax purposes. So even though I work 80 hours a week, I get zero coverage. I feel healthy, but you never know. Swine flu nearly killed me a few years back. Also, I drive too fast.

My experience isn’t unique. How many Americans won’t be able to buy health insurance between now and December, or whenever Obama finally gets his act together? How many will die due to lack of insurance? (The back of the envelope guesstimate: about 3800 per month.) How many will go broke paying for-profit doctors and hospitals?

Second, Obamacare is a Catch-22.

Bloomberg wire service reports: “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires most Americans have an active health insurance policy by March 31 or pay the higher of one percent of their annual income or $95.”

As the not-typically-quotable John Boehner asked recently: “How can we tax people for not buying a product from a website that doesn’t work?”

To which New York’s healthcare marketplace exchange thingamabob gives an elegant answer: “Error 500: org.opensaml.common.SAMLRuntimeException: Error determining metadata contracts.”

(Ted Rall’s website is tedrall.com. Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)

COPYRIGHT 2013 TED RALL

38 Comments.

  • They have had 3.5 years to get ready.

  • Speaking of website rollouts …

    Ted, I need to be a little blunt here. I know you worked hard on the new rollout and spent money to make it better, but you need to clean this mess up.

    1. All these scroll bars are incredibly annoying. Not only annoying, but really tacky looking. Amateur. No one wants scroll bars all over the place. It looks like a pre-Web 1.0 site done by someone who bought a Laura Lemay book and taught themselves to create “web presentations” on this new thingy called the internet.

    2. There’s so many ads placed so poorly it looks like a link-bait site.

    3. This page itself, for a column, is poorly structure. We have in order:

    – The article
    – Your “About Ted Rall” blurb in a big blue box.
    – An ad. A rotating ad, no less.
    – Then the comments section.
    – Then a very annoying auto-scrolling box promoting your work.

    I’m dizzy.

    I’m sorry, but it just has to be said. I find it hard to believe anyone enjoys this more than the old site. I’m not saying scrap it, but please consider re-vamping the layout. I don’t think this should be the end result, but more of a beta. Considering you’re an artist, I imagine you have the skills to do some of the work yourself, if not technically than at least aesthetically.

    The site is zippy again, so that’s an improvement.

  • […] insurers are still getting incorrect data, many still can’t access the system, and some are even getting messages telling them them they cannot pick a plan right now and to call a number “to find out how to pick your […]

  • Ted, look at the situation this way:
    You might be so fortunate as to die of unnatural causes before you have to buy into the “for-profit” ACA.
    Me? At 70-years-old I’m looking forward to departing this world without ever having to use Medicare, Medicaid, or ACA, hoping to die peacefully in my sleep.
    The sob’s in government should have provided “single-payer” from the get-go, instead of working to increase profits for the insurance companies. What they .have, they don’t want the citizenry to have. So sad.
    🙁

  • Alex Williams
    October 18, 2013 5:21 PM

    Hey, @exkiodexian!
    I’m the guy who helped Ted re-design his website — donating well over 100 hours so far to the cause.

    “1. All these scroll bars are incredibly annoying. Not only annoying, but really tacky looking. Amateur. No one wants scroll bars all over the place. It looks like a pre-Web 1.0 site done by someone who bought a Laura Lemay book and taught themselves to create “web presentations” on this new thingy called the internet.”

    Speaking of pre-web 1.0, no one likes a troll.

    “2. There’s so many ads placed so poorly it looks like a link-bait site.”

    These ads help keep the site up and running. While your feedback is certainly valuable, how about supporting Ted with a donation?

    “3. This page itself, for a column, is poorly structure. We have in order:
    – The article
    – Your “About Ted Rall” blurb in a big blue box.
    – An ad. A rotating ad, no less.
    – Then the comments section.
    – Then a very annoying auto-scrolling box promoting your work.”

    You’re absolutely right — though I’m not exactly sure how any of the above constitutes poor structure.

    “I’m dizzy.”

    Please make sure you’re staying on your meds!

    “I’m sorry, but it just has to be said. I find it hard to believe anyone enjoys this more than the old site. I’m not saying scrap it, but please consider re-vamping the layout. I don’t think this should be the end result, but more of a beta. Considering you’re an artist, I imagine you have the skills to do some of the work yourself, if not technically than at least aesthetically.”

    As with any website, it’s a work in progress. We’re continuing to roll out improvements and make adjustments based on user feedback and suggestions. Ted’s a very busy fellow, and so am I. If you’d like to come back once it’s finished, we’ll let you know.

    It might be a while, though.

  • Was sleep-dep, so I forgot to mention what was just previously mentioned: the blue box should go. You have a crapton of whitespace on the right which can provide that info, possibly with a clickable dropdown link.

    In addition, having the margins white and the comments written on white and the article text written on white and this comment field written on white would make the KKK give up on white power. I know I mentioned this before, but it’s gotten worse, not better, on my eyes. Use the silver that’s randomly been used around this “Leave a Reply” field, use some blues or greys, but tone this shit the hell down, man.

    Also: Obama’s going to get at least another week of Free Pass due to the Repug’s antics. Since none of the latter like reality, they won’t be able to take Obama to task effectively over the fuckups, Boehner’s bon mot notwithstanding, and since they won’t do it, the media won’t do it. I doubt Obama’s ability to spin this, so it should bite him in the ass eventually. But who cares? He’s a lame duck.

    • Thanks to everybody who has commented, and if you haven’t commented but want to, please do. Alex and I will be reviewing these comments and making adjustments in response to most of them.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 19, 2013 7:27 AM

    Two — three — suggestions:

    1. Put up a “Beta” or something on the topbar, so we’ll all know.
    2. Run the “About Ted” blue box vertically on the right. (Remember, vertical blue boxes are reminiscent of TARDISes and thus, cool.)
    3. Put up a link dedicated to suggestions, comments on website, etc., up near top (like right until the topbar).
    4. Fanatical devotion to the Pope.

  • Since this has turned into the “whine about the website” forum, I really don’t like fonts that are faux hand-writing.

    • Russell, nothing is set in stone. Generally, I tend to share your feeling about fonts that are fake handwriting. We’ll see, maybe will go back to a typeset fonts

  • Am I alone in thinking that *Sekhmet* and *exkiodexian* are one and the same? (Hint: “.Was sleep-dep, so I forgot to mention….”) It’s one thing to bitch about something (the site) and quite another to offer concrete suggestions (as did *alex_the_tired*). The difference is between “destruction” and “construction.”
    🙂

  • @Alex: Now I know you’re an amateur, so that explains this mess. Only an amateur reacts like a bitch when confronted with accurate criticism. Your responses are so bizarre, defensive and illogical (“slopping and poorly placed ads are a good thing!”) it’s actually pretty funny. Too bad Ted entrusted his site to you.

    @Ted: Perhaps it’s better to just roll it back. The old site was better, and with this clown in charge the odds are it’s not going to get any better.

  • @derlehrer: Ok, I’ll offer the constructive side of my criticism because apparently you need your hand held. For the average person, the fixes can be divined:

    1. All these scroll bars are incredibly annoying.
    Solution: Get rid of the fucking scroll bars.

    2. There’s so many ads placed so poorly it looks like a link-bait site.
    Solution: Place the ads in a more aesthetically pleasing fashion.

    3. This page itself, for a column, is poorly structured.
    Solution: Look at other sites that are nicely designed, and copy. For instance, don’t put a big blue box with author blurb in between the piece and comments. Don’t use annoying “auto-scroll” feature at the bottom.

    It ain’t rocket science pal. People with relatively decent logic skills can get the constructive points made from criticism, but I hope this “spelling it out” session has helped you out. Probably not.

  • @ exkiodexian – These last two posts of yours prove that you are indeed the *troll* you’ve been accused of being. Neither offers anything “constructive” at all – even in the broadest sense of the word. As the web-designer said: “Please make sure you’re staying on your meds!” At the very least, make certain that you don’t miss any appointments with your psychiatrist. He’s there to help, you know?

  • Oh, I should have added: If the site is annoying you, here is some constructive advice: Don’t visit. Problem solved. 🙂

    • Everybody please return to civility. This is a website redesign, not Obamacare. There’s no need to get into serious invective.

      I am very happy with the way things have been redone, particularly from a utilitarian standpoint. This website now runs a lot faster and it’s a lot cleaner than before.

      That said, nothing is ever perfect and there’s always room for improvement – well, my cartoons are perfect, but other than that – so we are definitely open to changing things that need to be changed. And there are definitely a few things that people have mentioned that will end up getting incorporated.

      So anyway, state your opinions but please play nice. That is all. Enjoy your Saturday night.

  • First of all GREAT new look 🙂 Nice & clean, easy to read.

    Health Care, I don’t understand why the USA has to make it so difficult, or why there is anyone without it. Perhaps a few less carrier battle groups and you might have the available funds, unless Obama is planning on refighting the Battle of Midway again. Haven’t fought the Japanese in decades, maybe it’s about time heh? As George Carlin said, “That’s our new job in the world, bombing brown people!”

    Entire monologue here: http://tinyurl.com/7ebot3o
    or
    http://dotsub.com/view/26a76d07-da13-4c49-96c1-f67d1b507707/viewTranscript/eng

    • Thanks, Will.

      The answer to your question is that the purpose of the system isn’t to make sick people better. The purpose of the system is to make corporate profits of healthcare companies better.

  • Ted is right, and a lot more of the comments by others, too. What we really need is a single payer system – but the Insurance Companies and Providers won’t let this happen – they are too envested in raking in profits and ripping us off. It’s really sad that so many other countries with smaller economies and less affluence have been able to do a better job of providing healthcarse for almost all than the USA. We are not exceptional except in the fact that we treat our own people so poorly and are constantly hurting so many people all over the world.

  • derlehrer on October 19, 2013 at 9:56 AM said:
    Am I alone in thinking that *Sekhmet* and *exkiodexian* are one and the same?

    Fuck you too, buddy.*

    %-P

    That out of the way, I’ve posted two comments about the website and the first one was approving — I noted that there was a lot I don’t like about the new site and then claimed that it was objectively better than the old one. It’s faster, and it will make Rall more money, and Rall should make more money. Whether or not Rall confirms to the desires of some random jackass on the internet whose own finances make it difficult to finance him is not exactly the most salient issue during this transition.

    Feel free to compare the theme and nuance of that last sentence with the gem exky left in his last post, then you tell me what’s what.

    * You have to admit that your comparison was beyond the pale, even for my level of vitriol, and there was scarcely any evidence to back it up. With the obvious exception of the above-quoted text, I actually like your posts, for one thing.

    The shutdown vs. the ACA is incredibly instructive, btw. If you have a political neophyte that you’d like to educate, be sure to use this as an example. This situation illustrates the absolute self-indulgence of a rightwing perspective, and it’s why I claim that the rightwing perspective isn’t an ideology, but is instead just being a dick.

    Note that the Tea Party could easily tear the ACA a new one. It’s a massive, pro-corporate giveaway. It’s wasteful. It’s inefficient. And now it doesn’t even work after years of preparation. Instead, they keep lying. Why? Why not just use the facts to indict Obama?

    Because the things that Obama does that makes him suck hurt you, and the Tea Party frickn’ hates you, and hate you deep. They can’t even pretend to give a rat’s ass about you. Telling people outside of their tribe to go screw themselves is the center of their political universe and they won’t mask that — it’s a point of pride. It’s their version of dignity. Because there’s no empathy, they don’t seem to register that we’re all screwed due to a lack of single-payer. Instead, they create phantoms that rationalize their already-decided-upon-hatred.

    Remember “keep the government out of my Medicare?” This is the same thing. Medicare is fine, so long as they’re getting it.

    This is why I part ways with Rall on issues of joining forces with rightwingers that (correctly) criticize big business. When someone’s entire political being is built around hoping you to die in a fire, not only can you not trust that person, but you can consistently rely on betrayal and malice from him or her.

    Thus, I do agree that the Republicans will pull another shutdown. Those low polls are irrelevant; their districts are rigged to maximize hateful mouthbreathers. Unless millions of lefties swarm into their districts, that party will continue to use our financial system as a toilet. Note: it seems pretty clear now that the only Repugs who will be primaried over this were the ones who voted to end the shutdown.

    Also:

    We really, really, really need a “preview” feature. It would be totes cool, unlike the term “totes,” which is not cool, no matter what you’ve heard.

    • What exactly do you mean by a “preview” feature? Do you mean, you want to be able to see your posts before they are published? If so, I’m not sure that WordPress supports that, but I can look into it. If not, let me know what you mean.

  • @ WillGere –
    Thanks for the link to the transcript. Here is a link to Carlin’s presentation on YouTube:
    We Like War

  • @ Sekhmet –

    “That out of the way, I’ve posted two comments about the website….”
    .
    In spite of Ted’s admonition to “return to civility,” you escalate the uncivil discourse with profanity (reminiscent of another poster). You ignore the fact that my post was a question, rather than a statement. However, you appear to have confirmed my suspicions with your post. You mention that you have made “… two comments about the website and the first one was approving…” and reinforce such comparison to that other poster by saying this: “… and then claimed that it was objectively better than the old one.” It appears that you are making reference to the post from *exkiodexian* on October 18, 2013 at 11:21 AM – “The site is zippy again, so that’s an improvement.”
    .
    It is one thing to discuss the website with constructive suggestions; it is quite a different matter to tear it apart with denigration – and then launch personal attacks against people who call attention to such venom.
    .
    Consider yourself fortunate that the decision is not mine: I would ban both *Sekhmet* and *exkiodexian* (both of which accounts I believe to be the same venomous person) from future participation.

  • alex_the_tired
    October 20, 2013 4:57 PM

    What seems most likely is this:

    The healthcare system will lurch along. The fees will be so noncompetitive that voter dissatisfaction will turn it into the wedge issue for the 2014 midterm elections. The Republicans will use it to control the entire election dialogue. Eventually, the Democrats will finally introduce a single-payer system too late to sway the 2016 elections. The Republicans will criticize them for not introducing such a system years earlier, instead of squandering so much money on a wasteful, useless system called Obamacare.

    The Democrats, golly gee, you watch ’em, they’ll clear their throats and say, “Excuse me,” many many times!

    It’ll be a riot.

  • alex:

    I see no universe in which mainstream dems go for single payer in a big way. Not after Obama kneecapped them. Only a president would have the nerve and the sway to make it happen. Anything and anyone less would need a coalition — and how would you get the dems to create such a faction? And that’s ignoring the republicans. I disagree: I think single-payer is, in the minds of the dems in Congress, a total non-starter now, but if you have any evidence — hell, suppositions, conjectures, or educated guesses — I’d love to hear them. Some good news would be swell right now, even if it has an element of pixie dust or moonbeams.

    *****

    derlehrer:

    You posted an incredibly insulting accusation, comparing me to a troll who had just finished insulting the webmaster for no good reason. You used an incredibly specious piece of “evidence” that, effectively, you made up to do so.

    You protest too much.

    Unlike myself, you’ve only just recently conversed with exky, whereas I’ve had back-and-forths with him before. And your posts coincide with dialogue that’s even excessive for him — which makes it very likely that he escalated out of pride, then used a proxy so he could continue to post without having to chest-beat. I’d conclude that you’re a useful sockpuppet in order to give him cover for, among other things, trolling the webhost.

    Between you and I, you’re much more likely to be him. If we’re using bullshit reasoning. After all, I actually approve of the new site, whereas you do nothing but offer a “reasonable” cover for his spewing. Then you engage in pointless trolling yourself — and make no mistake, it was trolling. You made a baseless accusation against me, which I treated with bemusement, and it is a perfect distraction to exky — your own — behavior.

    You’re fooling no one. There was nothing to escalate before you threw out an insult.

    It is one thing to discuss the website with constructive suggestions; it is quite a different matter to tear it apart with denigration – and then launch personal attacks against people who call attention to such venom.

    Indeed. Since I actually posted the very first set of constructive suggestions, while praising the website change, derlehrer is — objectively — criticizing someone who gave good suggestions. And not passive-aggressive insulting demands like his alter ego.

    You protest too much exky. And while I wouldn’t ban a troll, I would ban a sockpuppet. Ted should check your IP and act accordingly — taking your own advice.

    • “You posted an incredibly insulting accusation, comparing me to a troll who had just finished insulting the webmaster for no good reason.”
      .
      Give an example, please. My first post was a question, not an accusation. Following that, there was ample evidence.

      “You protest too much.”
      .
      Indeed you do – which makes me even more suspicious.

      “I’d conclude that you’re a useful sockpuppet in order to give him cover for, among other things, trolling the webhost.”
      .
      Give an example, please.

      “Between you and I, you’re much more likely to be him. If we’re using bullshit reasoning.”
      .
      Give an example, please. (BTW, correct grammar dictates: “Between you and me….”

      “You made a baseless accusation against me….”
      .
      Give an example, please.

      “You’re fooling no one.”
      .
      This is exactly my point, *exkiodexian*!!! There is too much similarity!!!!

      “There was nothing to escalate before you threw out an insult.”
      .
      Give an example, please.

      “Since I actually posted the very first set of constructive suggestions, while praising the website change….”
      .
      Give an example, please.

      “… derlehrer is … criticizing someone who gave good suggestions.”
      .
      Give an example, please. (It might interest you to know that, in effect, I was the driving force behind the website change. I still remain convinced that BOTH your ID’s should be dropped!) 🙂

  • “Unlike myself, you’ve only just recently conversed with exky, whereas I’ve had back-and-forths with him before. And your posts coincide with dialogue that’s even excessive for him — which makes it very likely that he escalated out of pride, then used a proxy so he could continue to post without having to chest-beat. I’d conclude that you’re a useful sockpuppet in order to give him cover for, among other things, trolling the webhost.”

    @sekhmet: I’ve read nutzoid ramblings before, but that takes the cake.

    Also, the word “troll” is meaningless, in case you haven’t heard. It now means: Anyone who posts something I don’t agree with. As such, no one even uses it anymore. Wake up.

    Finally — I posted legit criticism. I’ve never seen such a collection of whiny diaper babies who need to grow up and put on their big-boy pants. No wonder the bulk of you are deadbeat whiners looking for a handout. Toughen up, stop complaining and learn to deal with legitimate criticism. Who knows, you may even be employable someday.

  • ***

    “Nobody’s madder than me about the fact the website isn’t working as well as it should, which means it’s going to get fixed,” Obama said. “Everybody who wants insurance through the marketplace will get insurance. Period.”

    Well, glad to know he’s upset. Problem is, there’s really no reason why this would have had to happen unless he anticipated it. This is his signature bill. It’s literally the only good legacy he’s going to leave. I’m not saying he spiked the ACA, but I do think that he doesn’t care very much. A tremendous amount of work went into covering the interests of insurance companies, but none went into customer service.

    I actually think that the ACA gives Obama room to make health care way, way worse. (He obviously wants to cut Social Security, so there’s no conceptual problem for him here.) There will be no Repug pushback on an attack on Medicare. So he’ll roll out a plan that “means-test” Medicare — once the ACA is up and running and the news is generally positive. He’ll be under no threat from non-rightwingers, since he’s a lame duck. Repugs will love it (though they’ll pretend to hate it). This means that there won’t be any reason for it to be discussed in the MSM at all! We’ll have to hope that ethical Democrats in Congress carry the banner for the issue.

    Just read that last sentence and understand how screwed we are.

    I hate the ACA: it’s a plug in the space where single-payer should go. And I hated it when Obama was still in the primary because I knew he’d personally kill single-payer even then. But it’s likely that, over time, in the medium run, the ACA will save more lives than the old system did. (In the long run, it blocked single payer, so it will kill more, but that’s fait accompli). But if Obama uses the ACA as cover to gut Medicare, or hits Social Security, we could end up with a net increase in bodies dropped. We will be objectively worse off than if the ACA had never passed. There will be a strong argument that the government would have been less effectively rightwing if Romney had won.

    So I’m really hoping I’m wrong here.

  • a) Troll has meaning. Worthless mouthbreathers that can’t bother to provide useful content hope to banish the term because they’re correctly called out as being worthless. If you don’t like the game, change the rules, says every three-year-old.

    b) Whether or not trying to initiate a slapfight with the webhost is immature is only considered a disputed issue by immature persons, so I understand why the previous post buried the issue, but the notion that a pro-state, whip-kisser could lecture anyone on self-possession is laughable beyond belief.

  • No President was going to get single-payer through Congress. You can blame Dems and the GOP for that, but it’s ridiculous to argue as if Obama personally had anything to do with creating that situation.

    By creating a system with a market for mandated private coverage along with a relatively complex subsidy scheme, the government did create a program that is difficult to administer…certainly at the outset. But what was the better alternative that was conceivably available to Obama in that it could get through Congress and the courts?

    Rants feel good for a minute, but don’t often accomplish much. Personally, I think it’s pretty clear that a national single-payer system is the best heath care program for the US, but it would take about 50 million upbeat Rall cartoons extolling the virtues of health care for all to make single-payer a reality. (I’m assuming TR can capture 1 vote per cartoon.)

    • Tinbox: It is an article of faith among defenders of the Democratic Party and Pres. Obama that single-payer was a nonstarter back into thousand nine. However, that’s not really true. Or at least it wasn’t at the time.

      What is true is that, from the beginning, Obama promised only a public option as part of the current affordable care act. He did renege on this pledge, never pushing for it or using the bully pulpit to try to get it done. That’s why he never bothered to promoted or propose it in the original version of the affordable care act.

      Also, and it’s hard to remember now, but somehow I always do remember these things, he was roundly criticized for letting congressional Democrats take the lead rather than push for his own signature healthcare reform package throughout 2009. Do you remember how people work constantly asking when was Obama going to get involved in drafting this thing?

      So between the lack of interest in single-payer, which obviously have a lot to do with insurance company contributions to the Democratic Party, and Obama’s unwillingness to shepherd his own legislation through Congress, and his unwillingness to use the bully pulpit, what we got was inevitable.

      Another thing to remember is that a 2009, Obama’s political capital was huge. We were losing 600,000 jobs a month, people were incredibly scared, so many people were frightened that socialism and communism seemed preferable to many Americans been capitalism. Obama could literally have gotten anything done at the time. Republicans were in disarray, the media was completely in Obama’s pocket, and opinion polls had him riding high.

      If we don’t have a public option, or even single-payer, that’s entirely because of an active decision by Obama.

  • How about a word limit on posts? All the really long ones seem to be posters bickering at each other.

    • I don’t know, Russell, I would have a problem myself with a word limit on posts. I tend to enjoy some of the longer ones, and sometimes an idea needs to run long in order to be fully fleshed out. I would probably prefer more to step in when there are outrageous flame wars, but the current contretemps doesn’t seem to rise to that level yet.

      Speaking of which, guys, please remember, it’s about the ideas, not the personality. If you think someone’s idea is stupid, by all means say so and more precisely explain why, but don’t make it about the individual person making the post. One of the things I love about this forum is that so many smart people with different points of view can exchange ideas. Let’s not ruin that by name-calling.

      • ” Let’s not ruin that by name-calling.”
        .
        Ted, then what’s your take on posts like:
        Fuck you too, buddy.*
        .
        That’s acceptable dialogue?

  • I appreciate your thoughtful remarks, Ted, but the account of the political landscape in 2009 that is in Wikipedia’s history of Obamacare does not indicate that Obama had such strong position:

    With the Republican minority in the Senate vowing to filibuster any bill that they did not support, requiring a cloture vote to end debate, 60 votes would be necessary to get passage in the Senate.[91] At the start of the 111th Congress, Democrats had only 58 votes; the Senate seat in Minnesota that would be won by Al Franken was still undergoing a recount, and Arlen Specter was still a Republican.

    To reach 60 votes, negotiations were undertaken to satisfy the demands of moderate Democrats, and to try to bring aboard several Republican senators; particular attention was given to Bob Bennett, Mike Enzi, Chuck Grassley, and Olympia Snowe. Negotiations continued even after July 7—when Franken was sworn into office, and by which time Specter had switched parties—because of disagreements over the substance of the bill, which was still being drafted in committee, and because moderate Democrats hoped to win bipartisan support. However, on August 25, before the bill could come up for a vote, Ted Kennedy—a long-time advocate for healthcare reform—died, depriving Democrats of their 60th vote. Before the seat was filled, attention was drawn to Senator Snowe because of her vote in favor of the draft bill in the Finance Committee on October 15, however she explicitly stated that this did not mean she would support the final bill.[75] Paul Kirk was appointed as Senator Kennedy’s temporary replacement on September 24.

    Following the Finance Committee vote, negotiations turned to the demands of moderate Democrats to finalize their support, whose votes would be necessary to break the Republican filibuster. Majority leader Harry Reid focused on satisfying the centrist members of the Democratic caucus until the holdouts narrowed down to Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who caucused with Democrats, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Lieberman, despite intense negotiations in search of a compromise by Reid, refused to support a public option; a concession granted only after Lieberman agreed to commit to voting for the bill if the provision was not included,[75][92] even though it had majority support in Congress.[93] There was debate among supporters of the bill about the importance of the public option,[94] although the vast majority of supporters concluded that it was a minor part of the reform overall,[92] and that congressional Democrats’ fight for it won various concessions, including conditional waivers allowing states to set up state-based public options such as Vermont’s Green Mountain Care.[93][95]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patient_Protection_and_Affordable_Care_Act#Senate

    The article goes on to note that after the special election to fill the vacant seat of the late Ted Kennedy –which the Democrats lost with Massachusetts voters well aware of the Senate filibuster implications–the Democrats could not put together a filibuster-proof majority on health care.

    • Tinbox:

      The Wikipedia article is accurate in so far as it describes the parliamentary situation. What it does not describe is the steps not taken by Obama to use the bully pulpit. A simple reading of the votes doesn’t tell you the whole story.

      First and foremost, Obama did not take charge or lead the health care initiative starting in January 2009. He left that to congressional Democrats. He was silent on health care for most of 2009, a strategy that was and is widely viewed as a major strategic error.

      Second, but also significant was the fact that he did not use his immense personal popularity to take his case directly to the American people on behalf of of the affordable care act in general and for a public option in particular, and this was an error as well as a betrayal of his 2008 campaign promise, documented on his campaign’s website, to make sure that a public option was part of any health care reform package.

      It is entirely likely that the two or three votes that were lacking as described in the article that you quoted have been swayed by different steps in these two directions. This is not one of those hindsight is 20/20 things. Lots of people said this at the time, and he and his staffers decided to ignore them.

  • You may be right that there were a couple more votes to had if Obama had spent more political capital/tried harder. And Obama was not particularly principled in his Presidential campaign on the health care issue: he trashed Clinton precisely because her plan had a “mandate” and his didn’t–even though no plan can work without a mandate…as he eventually admitted.

    But who are those 2 or 3 other votes in the Senate you think he could get for the public option? And do you really think that Joe Lieberman (with the pharmaceuticals lobbyist wife) was one of them? Who do you see in the GOP that would support a public option?

    (Sorry to belabor the point and I won’t comment any further on this thread…)

    • Obviously there is the could have should have would have question. I guess I would have rather seen the president propose the single-payer option and be forced to retracted than to watch him cravenly not even try.

      No, I doubt that Joe Lieberman would’ve been one of those folks. But there had to of been a few moderate Republicans, like Olympia Snowe, who would have voted for it.

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