Obamacare kinks

Sweeping policy is a real-time experiment with many challenges

The Affordable Care Act has been nothing if not politically divisive in the lead-up to its implementation. Now, as its rollout becomes less about theory and more of a reality, the law’s strengths and weaknesses are revealing themselves. That is a natural part of the policy process, and as those pluses and minuses become more clear, lawmakers will have an opportunity to refine and adjust the law to bolster the former and lessen the latter.

Doing so will require modifications from the administration and Congress, and, likely, insurance companies — to say nothing of health-care providers. The Obama administration has received criticism since the law’s rollout about Healthcare.gov’s inefficiencies and failings. President Barack Obama and Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sibelius are chock full of humble pie after that fiasco — which still is not resolved and may not be by Obama’s promised end-of-the-month deadline. State exchanges are producing anxiety, too, with byzantine requirements that leave applicants nervous about their coverage.

Outside the exchanges, Obama has been taken to task for his past promises that those who choose to would be able to keep their existing insurance policies — a promise that has proven false as millions of Americans have received cancellation notices for policies that do not pass muster with the Affordable Care Act. These are hiccups — some of them major; stories abound of individuals whose new Obamacare plans cost more than those they were promised they could keep — but are not sufficient to write off the law as an utter failure. It is far too premature for such a dismissal.

That is not an easy fact to keep in mind, though, and for those Americans facing the uncertainties that Obamacare has unfurled, the frustration is warranted. So much so that it has gotten Bill Clinton’s attention.

The former president has taken to the stage, urging Obama to find a way to make good on his promise that people could keep their existing plans. Clinton has been a steadfast advocate of the Affordable Care Act. But in an interview with Ozy, an online magazine, he admonished the president to “honor the commitment that the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got.” For his part, Obama is apologetic for the mix-up, telling NBC that he accepts the blame for the people “finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.”

It certainly is not pretty, but between bills that have been introduced in both houses of Congress that would have insurance companies reinstate the cancelled policies and tweaks to the law on the administration side, there is considerable room and opportunity for improvement.

Exactly what that final improvement looks like is uncertain in the Affordable Care Act’s rocky early days, but even with the considerably rough seas the rollout has seen, it is too early in the process to jump to the conclusion that House Speaker John Boehner did: “The entire health-care law is a train wreck that needs to go. ... President Clinton understood that governing in a divided Washington requires a focus on common ground, and I hope President Obama will follow the former president’s lead.”

Boehner takes some liberties with Clinton’s comments and the state of the Affordable Care Act. That energy would be better spent looking in to what adjustments are needed — and making them.

Except, of course, that Boehner and his caucus have no interest in finding ways to tweak or improve Obamacare. As they have repeatedly made clear, they want only to repeal it outright. And with that, they are effectively buying into its problems.