It's time to engage in a thought experiment about the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges. Thanks to Jim Geraghty from National Review online, we have a perfect analogy:
Let's do a little thought experiment.
Congratulations! You're a Republican, and you were elected president of the United States in November 2016. You ran on entitlement reform, and you appear to have won a mandate to reform Social Security by creating a 401(k)-style individual retirement account for every American worker and allowing Americans to divert part of their payroll taxes into those accounts. If it works well, millions of Americans will have secure retirements, reducing dependency on a Social Security system and helping them to enjoy prosperity well into their golden years while leaving a little something for their kids.
This is still a controversial policy, of course. Some Democrats don't like it because they think individual retirement accounts are too risky for Americans' savings. Some fear turning every American into an investor will impede their demonization of big business. Some just oppose it because they hate you and everything you stand for. And a lot of Americans are worried that they could make the wrong investments and lose money.
You spend enormous political capital getting your plan passed, and defend it at the Supreme Court. You appoint a governor of your own party to be the administrator of the Social Security Administration, overseeing the transition to individual accounts -- Karl Schmebelius. You spend a great deal of time touting a website that will help Americans track how their individual funds – using part of the money that they would normally pay into Social Security -- are doing and how close they are to their goal for retirement savings.
And then upon its debut, the website crashes and malfunctions as badly as we've seen with the Obamacare exchanges. Even though you've been getting regular updates, and had heard about "glitches," you're blindsided by the complete failure of the system. Three weeks into the program, your appointee Karl Schmebelius tells the Wall Street Journal he needed another four years to do the job properly.
Would you keep Schmebelius, or would you fire him instantly for embarrassing you, your administration, and putting your legacy in jeopardy? Wouldn't you be furious? Wouldn't you want the American people to know you were furious?
There's no doubt that a Republican president would immediately apologize for that massive of a mistake. Let's take it further, though. There's no doubt that the media would be calling for the Social Security Administrator's resignation within the first hour of this story breaking.
Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the NAACP would accuse Republicans of ruining thousands of African-Americans lives. MoveOn.org would put together a protest within the hour.
Most importantly, they'd be right in taking those actions.
WHITE HOUSE OPENS DOOR TO OBAMACARE DELAY - As the federal government teetered on the brink of shutdown at the end of last month, the White House and Senate Democrats flatly refused a Republican emergency spending bill that would have kept the government open but delayed ObamaCare’s requirement that individuals purchase health insurance by March 31 or face a fine. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded to a GOP counteroffer by saying Republicans had “lost their minds.” But after an epic failure of a launch for the new health insurance entitlement and with the partial shutdown over, “delay” suddenly isn’t a dirty word anymore. With many of those subject to the fine unable to sign up due to manifold botches in the enrollment process, Democrats are warming up to the idea.
The administration's shifting opinion might have something to do with this:
A new ABC/WaPo poll finds 54 percent of respondents believe the problems plaguing ObamaCare’s Web site reflect a larger problem with President Obama’s signature entitlement program.
It's important to remember that the public's trust in President Obama didn't increase during the shutdown. Their distrust for his administration increased. The only thing that saved him was that the public's distrust in Republicans increased more during the shutdown.
What's most important throughout this debacle, however, is the fact that young healthy people, the key to the financial health of the Affordable Care Act, can't enroll through HealthCare.gov. That's the generation that does most of their shopping online or through their smartphone's apps. The thought that they'd have to fill out a paper document, then snail male the application into the government isn't likely to appeal to them.
The bottom line is this. This situation will get worse before it gets better. That's assuming that things will get better for this administration.