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Beam: Media thriving on Obamacare

Last Modified: Wednesday, November 06, 2013 5:12 PM

By Jim Beam / American Press

Obamacare has been a godsend for the media. It has also helped Republicans recover from the party’s image problems caused by forced budget cuts, the government shutdown and the debt ceiling controversy. Each passing day sees reams and reams of stories, editorials and columns on the shortcomings of one of President Obama’s rare legislative accomplishments.

The president has been the biggest loser despite last-gasp efforts of his Democratic colleagues to put a happy face on what has been a health care disaster. When the liberal wing of the national media and your party stalwarts turn on you, you know the trouble runs deep.

NBC News in late October hit back hard with a story headlined, “Obama administration knew millions could not keep their health insurance.” The report quoted Robert Laszewski of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, a consultant who works for health industry firms.

“This says that when they made the promise, they knew half the people in this market outright couldn’t keep what they had and then they wrote the rules so that others couldn’t make it either,” Laszewski said.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., “passionately supports Obamacare,” according to Major Garrett of National Journal, a political news magazine in the nation’s capital. However, she had some tough words for the Obama administration.

“The launching of the Affordable Care Act has been more than bumpy,” Mikulski said. “I believe there’s been a crisis of confidence created in the dysfunctional nature of the (Obamacare) website, the canceling of policies and sticker shock from some people. We read in the Baltimore Sun this morning that 73,000 Marylanders’ policies will be canceled. So there has been fear, doubt and a crisis of confidence.”

Notice that Mikulski used “crisis of confidence” twice in her comments. Garrett said the last time that term was “memorably uttered” was in 1979 during the Jimmy Carter administration. And Garrett said things didn’t turn out well for Carter.

Political analyst Charlie Cook in his National Journal column said any advantages the Democrats may have enjoyed because of Republican image problems “has been effectively neutralized.”

“The noise you hear is the grinding of Democratic teeth over the botched launch and arguably deeper design problems of the Affordable Care Act,” Cook said.

National Journal in another analysis said Democrats in the Senate who have to run for re-election in 2014 want the Obamacare problems fixed. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is one of those running next year. The magazine said one Democratic senator was asked whether the White House’s credibility has been shot over the cancellation of those insurance policies.

“You got to have it (credibility), to lose it,” the senator said.

Landrieu and other members of Congress are backing legislation called “Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise.” Their goal, they said, is to let policyholders hang on to health care coverage they like even though it might not measure up to the requirements under Obamacare.

What a charade that plan is. The Associated Press put that one to bed in a Wednesday story. Here is what the news cooperative said about the bills backed by Landrieu and others:

“Senate Democrats spoke dismissively of the proposals, signaling they have no intention of permitting a vote on the issue that marks the latest challenge confronting supporters of ‘Obamacare,’” the AP said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., was more evasive the next day. The AP said he “kept his distance” from Landrieu’s legislation. Here is Reid’s way of dodging the issue when he knows the Landrieu bill hasn’t got a chance of even being heard.

“There are hundreds of bills introduced every week, and we have to sort through those that have opportunity to be voted on,” Reid said.

The latest problem linked to the health care website has to do with security. The AP said even Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., a chief author of Obamacare and vocal defender, has voiced concerns about the risk of exposing consumers’ private information.

“I want it to work, and security is one factor, one component. It has to be secure,” Baucus said.

Each time a glitch surfaces, the Obama folks manage to come up with positive comments, which in some instances are a real stretch. They are telling policyholders who lost their health insurance they will get better coverage on the exchanges than the substandard protection they had. However, they never mention the higher premiums and increased deductibles.

A report in the Los Angeles Times said the focus has been on the website glitches but “experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama’s signature legislation.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, tried to turn the table on Republicans who have said all along Obamacare was a train wreck waiting to happen.

“The real train wreck is what people are experiencing every day because they can’t afford care,” Harkin said.

There is truth in what he is saying, but the problems so far don’t give them much confidence that their health care needs will be met efficiently or anytime soon.

One thing we do know. Obamacare is as complex a government attempt at fixing a serious social problem as we’ve seen in our lifetime. Whether it will ever work is anyone’s guess, but the results so far don’t bode well for its future.

    • • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com

Posted By: jobardu On: 11/7/2013

Title: Liberal wing of the National Media?

Ninety percent of the media is, by self declaration, liberal. So talking about a liberal "wing" is talking about one unbalanced bird. I prefer to use the term media mono culture.

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