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Gray Lady Raises the White Flag on Obamacare

Walter Russell Mead

Six years after a Democratic majority rammed the most complex piece of domestic legislation in decades through a party line vote, using a legislative technique that ensured the final bill would be a mess that nobody actually advocated, the law, shockingly, isn’t working very well. Enrollment is only half of what proponents expected, premiums are going up by double-digits, healthy people are shunning what they see as an over-priced and underperforming program, the ‘cooperatives’ that Democratic wonks gushed over are going belly-up, and insurance companies are fleeing the market in droves.

And even more amazingly, the New York Times has sorted through the chaos and come up with the conclusion that the Obamacare mess is serious, costly, damaging—and very, very hard to fix.

It has been a hard couple of weeks for Obamacare. The law’s online marketplaces — where people were supposed to be able to easily shop for health insurance — have been suffering from high-profile defections and double-digit premium increases.

Critics of Obamacare have pointed to the recent problems as proof the market is not working, while even the law’s staunchest defenders are arguing that the marketplaces need some fixes.

The signature domestic accomplishment of the Obama administration is, the Gray Lady appears to be conceding, a dysfunctional mess. It’s likely that the next president will have to spend time and political capital trying to undo the harm that Obamacare is wreaking on an American health system that was already in need of constructive reforms. Hillary Clinton’s first venture into national politics was her failed effort to introduce health care reform in her husband’s first term; will her own first term see her having to go back to health care one more time? If so, one can be fairly sure that she won’t be grateful to the predecessor who left her with this sticky mess.

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