Pharos-Tribune

November 20, 2013

PARKER: The White House mess


Pharos-Tribune

---- — So now President Obama has apologized for real. On Thursday, he told Americans, “I hear you loud and clear” (and announced that insurance companies can ignore the law for a year. The several million Americans whose policies were canceled, or were scheduled to be canceled, can keep them — or get them back — assuming state regulators and insurance companies comply.

It isn’t clear whether insurers can, or will, based on the assurances of someone whose credibility isn’t exactly soaring. Meanwhile, the newest promise dovetails with another earlier delay granted to businesses with at least 50 employees (just 3.6 percent of employers), which were given another year to comply with the ACA.

In the wake of Obama’s latest tweak, two salient questions have emerged: Can the ACA survive? Can the president even do what he just did, legally?

Though brilliant minds may differ, the president is probably within bounds, according to a compelling argument by Simon Lazarus, senior counsel at the Constitutional Accountability Center. The relevant constitutional text, he writes on The Atlantic’s website, requires that the president “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” a broad-enough concept to allow for judgment in the execution.

The only prohibition is that the president not fail to execute the law owing to his opposition to a policy. Obviously, this is not the case here. As a political matter, it is also obvious that Obama is merely trying to right his own sinking ship, especially after Bill Clinton’s undoubtedly heartfelt advice (you just know), as well as to pre-empt a new House bill to aid canceled policy holders that passed Friday with bipartisan support, including 39 Democrats.

Cynics on the left insist that Republicans have no real interest in helping Obamacare.

Republicans oppose Obama’s policies, not the man, because they believe the president will so inexorably change the structure of our social and economic system by mandating and punishing human behavior that nothing less than individual freedom is at stake. Under present circumstances, this hardly seems delusional. Does anyone really believe that subsidized policyholders with pre-existing conditions won’t eventually face other mandates and penalties related to their lifestyle choices?

Finally, Democrats incessantly seize upon their prize trophy: The U.S. Supreme Court validated Obamacare. True-ish. It ruled that the mandate/penalty is constitutional only if the penalty were viewed as a “tax.”

Whether the ACA survives the new timetable remains an open question. The plan sinks or swims on the basis of young, healthy people signing up, which, for now, they cannot do except in dribs and drabs. Further, the ACA clearly needed the canceled policyholders to buy new, more expensive policies to underwrite subsidies and pre-existing conditions.

Soon enough, Americans will figure out whether Obamacare is the gift Democrats promised.

Kathleen Parker is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group. She can be reached at kathleenparker@washpost.com.