President Obama is flailing as he tries desperately to defend and promote Obamacare while his own party is collapsing around him. With a majority of Americans now opposing the health care plan, Democrats are turning on the president in order to avert massive election losses in 2014.
Stubborn to the core, Mr. Obama has refused so far to do anything to help Americans keep their current health insurance plans. For three years, Mr. Obama has said repeatedly that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan.”
That has already been proven false for millions of Americans, and former President Bill Clinton is trying to stop the bleeding.
Mr. Clinton told the website Ozy this week that, “Even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.”
Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman, told me Wednesday in an interview, “The person who is galvanizing the Democratic Party — Bill Clinton — is telling the president that he needs to be a man of his word. It’s a devastating comment.”
Mr. Priebus said that the president losing his own party comes down to self-preservation. “Democrats in vulnerable seats want to do something because they know Obamacare is going to sink the Democrats in 2014,” he explained. “If you’re a Democrat, I don’t know how you continue to lie to the American people.”
To that end, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, broke ranks this week and said Obamacare needed “constructive changes.”
Likewise, Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana said they will introduce legislation to allow for people to keep their current plans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday would not say whether he would let the bill come to the floor.
Republicans are trying to alleviate the suffering. The GOP-controlled House is expected to vote on Friday on a bill that will allow health insurance companies to continue offering individual plans that people had on Jan. 1, 2013.
Currently, the Affordable Care Act forces insurers to cancel coverage that doesn’t meet 10 expensive requirements, such as maternity care and prescription drugs. The White House has already declared this bill a nonstarter.
White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday said, “We do not see that as fixing the problem. We see that as throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” He backed down somewhat on Wednesday, saying the president asked to see some legislative options.
There was supposed to be a grandfather clause in Obamacare, but the slightest change in a policy, which is normally renewed on an annual basis, forced all those types of policies to be canceled.
Mr. Obama promised House Republicans personally in January 2010 that the problems with grandfathered plans had been fixed. At a retreat in Baltimore, he said that there were “some stray cats and dogs” in the health care law that would violate the pledge, but that the White House was “in the process of scrubbing this and making sure that it’s tight.”
That never happened. As a result, millions of Americans have received letters saying their existing plans are canceled, and they can choose to buy plans that can cost up to double their current premium and even triple the deductible, or they can go into the Obamacare exchanges to get insurance.
Mr. Obama’s biggest problem now is his character. The president’s approval rating is at the lowest it has been since he took office, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll. Americans voters disapprove of his job performance, 54 percent to 39 percent.
“Now it’s a matter of trust, and that’s very dangerous territory,” Mr. Priebus said. “People can disagree with each other. But when they start to believe you’re not being an honest person — and on top of it, people are actually suffering from losing insurance policies and paying more money — there is nothing more toxic than that.”
The president has one chance at getting out of this mess. He can come clean with the American people and admit he did not tell the truth when he said people could keep their insurance with the new health care law.
Then he should work with Congress to construct a bill that allows people to keep their own policies. Doing that may cause the whole Obamacare house of cards to crumble, but the alternative is a legacy of lies and deceit.
Emily Miller is senior editor of opinion for The Washington Times and author of the book “Emily Gets Her Gun … But Obama Wants to Take Yours” (Regnery 2013).