Obamacare remains tremendously unpopular with the American people. According to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll, only 14 percent of Americans believe they have benefited from the law, compared to 17 percent who say the law has already harmed them. Only 28 percent of Americans believe Obamacare will help the nation’s economy, compared to 45 percent who believe it will make it worse. Overall, 48 percent of Americans oppose Obamacare while only 43 percent favor it. Some provisions, like the individual mandate, are particularly unpopular, with a full 67 percent of Americans favoring its repeal.
President Barack Obama knows all of this, which is why he told the visiting National Governors Association at the White House yesterday that he supports changing the date that states can begin applying for waivers from some Obamacare mandates from 2017 up to 2014. Specifically, the President endorsed legislation by Senators Ron Wyden (D–OR) and Scott Brown (R–MA), claiming: “It will give you flexibility more quickly while still guaranteeing the American people reform.” President Obama is at least half right here. Wyden–Brown would give states some flexibility—but only the flexibility to implement a government take over of health care faster. Heritage Foundation Center for Policy Innovation Director Stuart Butler explained in the New England Journal of Medicine:
One [problem] is that [Wyden-Brown] still locks the states into guaranteeing a generous and costly level of benefits. True, a state could propose alternative benefit requirements if they had the same actuarial value as those in the [health care bill]. But the requirements go well beyond basic coverage, and the HHS secretary is the one who defines “at least as comprehensive” benefits. …
Another major problem with the bill is that since ultimate waiver authority rests with the HHS secretary, the waivers granted would probably reflect the administration’s preferences. Senator Wyden claims that his legislation would allow conservative states to opt out of much of the [bill] and implement consumer-driven coverage. But he admits that the secretary, not the state, has the final word over what is permitted.
In essence Wyden–Brown is simply a vehicle for giving deep-blue progressive states the power to institute a single-payer government takeover of health care faster. Politico even confirmed this later in the day when it reported on a White House conference call with liberal allies:
Health care advisers Nancy-Ann DeParle and Stephanie Cutter stressed on the off-record call that the rule change would allow states to implement single-payer health care plans—as Vermont seeks to—and true government-run plans, like Connecticut’s Sustinet.
The source on the call summarizes the officials’ point—which is not one the Administration has sought to make publicly—as casting the new “flexibility” language as an opportunity to try more progressive, not less expansive, approaches on the state level.
“They are trying to split the baby here: on one hand tell supporters this is good for their pet issues, versus a message for the general public that the [President] is responding to what he is hearing and that he is being sensible,” the source emails.
That is exactly what is going on here. The President knows his signature accomplishment, Obamacare, is fundamentally unpopular with the American people. So he is trying to appear “flexible” on the issue, while in reality all he is doing is enabling his progressive allies to expand the reach of government even faster.