- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 23, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Obamacare turned four years old Sunday. But unlike a human offspring, which would developing by leaps and bounds, the poor little government program is still peeing the bed.

When historians recount the life of Obamacare (likely to be cut not-so-tragically short fairly soon), they might just start with how America’s comedians, all mostly liberal and easy on the president for five full years, took aim at him shortly after the invasive health care overhaul debuted.

Like the seven-minute interview with comedian Zach Galifianakis on his hit Internet webcast “Between Two Ferns,” in which President Obama asks his bearded interviewer, “Have you heard of healthcare.gov?”

“Uhhhhhh, here we go. Let’s get this out of the way. What did you come here to plug?”

“Have you heard of the Affordable Care Act?” says the president.


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“Oh yeah, I heard about that. That’s the thing that doesn’t work. Why did you get the guy who created the Zune to make your website?”

Zing. And this one, from Thursday night’s “Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon, featuring the host made up as Vladimir Putin and an Obama look-alike chatting on the phone about Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine.

“Look, don’t you see what you’re doing though?” Barack says to Vlad. “You’re forcing people to accept something that the majority of them don’t even want.”

“Yes,” says Putin, “In Russia, we have word for this: Obamacare.” Burn.

The skit brought uproarious laughter from the New York City studio audience, no doubt packed with young hipsters who voted for America’s first black president. But these days, Obamacare — a pledge to provide government-subsidized health coverage for what Mr. Obama says are 46 million uninsured Americans — is a laughing matter for everyone, even his most sycophantic supporters.

The legislation squeaked out of Congress two days before Christmas 2009, without a single Republican vote. Smartly, Democrats heavily back-loaded the new law, making sure its most painful effects wouldn’t be felt until after the next presidential election in 2012.

But many Americans were furious about the government’s takeover of the best health care system in the world. The Tea Party was suddenly born, and its angry members promptly replaced 63 House Democrats with Republicans in the 2010 mid-term elections, the largest seat pick-up since 1938.

Years would pass before the first effects were felt. Some minor provisions rolled out last year, but the bulk of the changes hit in 2014, with a March 31 deadline to sign up. Yet even that long lead time couldn’t save the disastrous program. In the fall of 2013, the Obama administration unveiled its $500 million Affordable Care Act website, which promptly crashed — for a month.

After spending millions more, healthcare.gov began to enroll Americans. But not many. With just days to go until the deadline, White House officials say just 5 million people have signed up. Worse, a study found that just 27 percent of those had been without any health coverage before enrolling, meaning that just more than 1.5 million people — of those 46 million uninsured — had sought coverage.

Throughout the enrollment period, horror stories of insurance premiums doubling, tripling, even quadrupling emerged from the once-cowed press corps. Mr. Obama’s oft-repeated claim that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” was proven false — and then named the 2013 Lie of the Year by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Politifact.

Mr. Obama even had to acknowledge that no, people can’t keep their doctors, either. “They might end up having to switch doctors, in part because they’re saving money,” he said last week.

Not to mention the repeated changes to the law enacted unilaterally by Mr. Obama. After loud complaints from people who had lost their coverage — insurance companies claimed the policies didn’t adhere to the strict demands of Obamacare — the president extended that requirement’s deadline until 2015.

While Obama officials argue that what’s happening now is simply the birthing pangs of a massive government program, the future looks even more bleak. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that in 2023, Obamacare will still have left 31 million people without health insurance while adding more than $1.7 trillion in federal spending.

Democrats are, not surprisingly, freaked out about the coming mid-term elections. “We’re going to get killed in the 2014 mid-term election, and it’s because of one thing: Obamacare,” said one frank Democratic House lawmaker.

And Mr. Obama is no doubt concerned about his legacy, given that Obamacare will likely be his only lasting legacy — provided a new Congress controlled by Republicans doesn’t wipe it away like a countertop stain.

Which makes Mr. Galifianakis‘ mock question to Mr. Obama in his brief interview a very real query: “I have to know: What is it like to be the last black president?”

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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