Beam: Troubled times for democrats

By By Jim Beam / American Press

When the Democrats get rattled, you

know Obamacare is in real trouble. A disastrous rollout of the health

care program’s launch

was soon followed by President Obama backtracking on his promise

that policyholders could keep the health care coverage they

liked. Some 14 million Americans hold those individual policies,

and many of them hollered loud and clear when their policies

were cancelled.

A revolt by Democrats in the House of

Representatives didn’t turn out to be as broad as expected. However, 39

of them still

broke ranks Friday when they supported a Republican-sponsored bill

that would allow insurers to continue selling those so-called

inadequate policies through 2014. Obama’s Thursday admission that

his administration “fumbled the rollout of this health care

law” slowed the Democratic desertions.

Why did Obama finally own up to his

broken promise. The Associated Press said it came after “six weeks of

website woes, broken

promises, tumbling poll numbers and deepening frustration from his

own party...” The president obviously knows he is in deep


Without a new law on the books, insurance companies aren’t required to restore those cancelled policies. And state insurance

commissioners have the last word. The California commissioner called on insurers to extend the 900,000 policies that have

been dropped. The Washington state commissioner said he won’t allow that to happen. Both are Democrats.

There are two proposals floating around

that are designed to legally fix the mess Obama created. The Upton bill

passed by

the House would allow insurers to sell the old plans that didn’t

measure up to anyone, including new customers, but only for

a year. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and others are backing a plan

that would allow consumers to keep their existing plans indefinitely.

The outcome of both measures is pretty

much already decided, according to a report by Politico, which covers

political news.

Obama said he would veto the House bill, but Politico said it “is

headed nowhere in the Democratic-led Senate.” And Landrieu’s

solution isn’t going anywhere in the Senate, either.

You can understand why policyholders

want to know why their coverage was considered inadequate. The answer is

simple. Their

policies don’t cover new requirements under Obamacare. Those are

things like no annual limits on health care, insurance companies

being unable to drop customers who are sick, the coverage of

pre-existing conditions, more women’s health care services, new

preventative services at no out-of-pocket costs, prescription

drugs and maternity and newborn care.

Older American women, for example,

don’t understand why they have to pay for maternity care. And maybe

that’s the best way

to explain how Obamacare is supposed to work. Those who don’t need

maternity and newborn care have to help pay for those who

need it and don’t have it.

Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthhammer put it another way.

“So a couple in their 60s must buy

maternity care,” he said in a recent column. “A teetotaler must buy

substance-abuse treatment.

And a healthy 28-year-old with perfectly appropriate catastrophic

insurance must pay for bells and whistles for which he has

no use.”

Insurance companies aren’t in the

business to lose money. When health care costs go up, so do premiums.

And the companies

aren’t happy about Obama wanting to let people keep those policies

that were cancelled. They said the 2014 premiums charged

to those who lost policies are fixed and designed to help pay for


Those who saw their policies cancelled aren’t the only targets. Obamacare has to require younger people to buy insurance because

their premiums also help finance Obamacare, and they aren’t the ones who get sick most often.

What we have here is a federal law that

is designed to have those who can afford to pay higher premiums help

finance health

care for those who don’t have it for one reason or another. It’s

tailored along the lines of Huey Long’s proposed “Share the

Wealth” program.

Supporters of Obamacare see no problem

in that system. As some of them have said, the health care policies

currently carried

by people who can afford the premiums are already helping pay for

the care that hospitals are required to give to the uninsured

who show up in their emergency rooms looking for health care. They

see this as a similar policy.

Opponents, however, argue that

Obamacare is much broader than the hospital financing example and

touches the lives of many

more millions of Americans. Those wavering Democrats know they

have been hurt politically by the continuing Obamacare problems,

and one poll explains why.

“A recent Quinnipiac University poll

showed House Democrats have lost their 9-point generic ballot lead over

Republicans and

are now tied, a month after a government shutdown sank the GOP’s

approval rating,” according to The Hill in the nation’s capital.

The newspaper added that Obama’s job approval rating has dropped

to 39 percent, the lowest of his presidency.

“Clearly this is a president in a world of hurt,” said National Journal columnist Charlie Cook, a Louisiana native. “And with

midterm elections often a referendum on the president, Obama’s predicament is a serious concern to Democrats on both ends

of Pennsylvania Avenue and in every state capital.”

The magazine said 13 House Democrats

lost their seats in 2010 as a direct result of their votes in favor of

the Affordable

Care Act. Party leaders are keeping a happy face in spite of

Obamacare’s ongoing problems, but it’s easy to see why today’s

congressional Democrats are rattled.

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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