Democrats see light at the end of tunnel on Obamacare

After two months of terrible headlines and circular firing squads sparked by website problems and insurance cancellations, congressional Democrats are finally beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel on Obamacare.

With the deadline for repairs to Obamacare website HealthCare.gov now past (and the site itself demonstrating vastly improved performance, according to the White House), Democrats are voicing optimism about the health care law and its future for the first time in weeks.

Their big picture argument: Much work remains, but the law’s implementation has turned a corner.

David Plouffe, a former senior adviser to President Obama, predicted that the law will eventually find its sea legs as more people log into the new-and-improved insurance portal and begin shopping for plans.

“This has been a rough period, obviously,” he conceded Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “But you see the interest out there…people want health care. They're going to be able to get health care.”

“We live in a very social world now,” he said. “People will tell their siblings or they'll talk to their brothers, or sisters or their friends, say, ‘I went on, it was pretty easy, I got health care. I'm happy with the plan.’ This is going to be something that person to person is going to get fixed or not. And I think what you're beginning to see is the interest is spiking, because the interest is out there. People just need an easy experience and it hasn't been easy.”

Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., a progressive stalwart in the House, seconded Plouffe’s sanguine outlook Sunday on ABC. “Yes, there are a few problems we're working through now,” he said. “But we can see the end of that era and to a new time when people will be able to get sick and get care and not worry about being dropped and not worrying about going bankrupt.”

Even former Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who carved a more moderate profile for himself within the Democratic caucus during his time on Capitol Hill, found cause for optimism, arguing that despite any short-term disruptions within the insurance market, the law could very well reduce health care costs.

“There is some preliminary data, I want to stress preliminary, that costs have been kept down for a number of reasons,” he said Sunday on Fox News. “If Obamacare is driving that, and costs continue to come in lower, that will be important. Do the exchanges work, do healthy people get involved? That's critically important. We'll know that by March 31st.”

He further pointed to the healthcare law in Massachusetts, on which the federal plan was modeled, which debuted to a rocky start before eventually hitting its stride.

“They had a whole host of problems there at the beginning, and yet have gotten to a point where it's working fairly well, seems to be reasonably popular in that state,” he said. “Hopefully, for those who support the bill, that's the trajectory that will be followed.”

Unsurprisingly, many Republicans remain unconvinced, holding fast to their insistence that the law’s problems go far beyond a faulty website.

The improvements in the law’s implementation have been “well overstated,” Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” voicing concerns about the security of the personal health and financial information being fed through the online portal.

“Have they made some progress? Yes – they brought in some private sector folks to try to get the functionality up,” he said. “But here's the most important part of this discussion that nobody talks about. The security of this site and the private information [on it] does not meet even the minimal standards of the private sector and that concerns me. I don't care if you're for it or against it, Republican or Democrat, we should not tolerate the sheer level of incompetence securing this site.”

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., said on ABC’s “This Week” that Obamacare is beyond repair – that the law’s pitiful debut consigned it to ultimate failure, regardless of any attempted resuscitation.

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression and the first impression here was terrible. And I think it's going to be an unfolding disaster for the president,” Cole said. “There are going to be some winners, there's no question about that, but there are going to be millions of losers, too. People are going to find their rates going up, people that have insurance they like are going to be losing it…the individual market is pretty tiny compared to what's yet to come. And I think as that unfolds, this thing is going to be an unmitigated political disaster for the president.”

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that there are simply too many problems with Obamacare for anyone to be optimistic about the law’s future.

“I don't know how you fix the many fundamental problems of this program,” he said. “It was done in a way that, really, there wasn't a vision at the end. It was just an amalgamation of legislation that didn't have a central focus. And so I don't know how you fix it. I'll be honest. I don't know how you fix a program that was put together in this manner, with only one side of the aisle, and taking the shortcuts that were taken to put it in place.”

As Republicans continue their assault on the health care law, though, some quarters are calling on the GOP to play a more constructive role in improving and implementing it.

“In Washington, where short-term thinking is the only type, it’s easy to look at the many challenges that remain, condemn the whole reform as unworkable and propose some counter-productive 'solution.' That would be a terrible mistake,” declared the Washington Post’s editorial board. “Though elements of the rollout have flopped, the policy itself has not proven a disaster. It is still one President Obama, nervous Democrats, uncooperative Republicans, and others at all levels of government can get to work. It’s about time they all tried their hardest.”

  • Jake Miller

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