The Sun Journal of Lewiston (Maine), Nov. 15, 2013
The White House is receiving a sound trashing at the hands of Congress for the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act's website.
It has been an embarrassing disappointment, and we have said so ourselves.
So what's next?
Move on? Hardly.
House Republicans will continue to investigate the site's failings until it either works or until something more outrageous comes along.
One congressional critic really put things in perspective when he likened the roll-out to a rocket that blew up on the launch pad.
That is so sad. And so true.
But it probably reminded many Americans with long memories of something else.
Rockets? Launch pads? Exactly how many U.S. rockets blew up on the launch pad until we finally put a man on the moon? A lot. In fact, in 1967 three astronauts were killed in a launch pad accident.
Failure usually walks hand-in-hand with progress, and doing really big things guarantees setbacks and struggle.
It's been a long time, and there have been a thousand distractions, accusations, a near default and a 16-day government shutdown, and that's just been this year.
So, let's remember what this moon-shot was all about.
For a decade or more, Americans had been complaining about a health care system that costs too much, produces poor results, bankrupts sick people and leaves millions of our fellow Americans without access to consistent care.
And the Republican response to all these critical problems has been ...
Well, only one actual response comes to mind — the highly successful Massachusetts health care plan, proposed by a Republican governor and enacted by a bipartisan legislature.
That plan was first proposed by a Republican think tank that reasoned everyone should be required to buy health insurance or to make an honest attempt to do so.
That was, obviously, because the system could only work if everyone who might need health insurance participated.
It was like requiring car owners to have insurance whether they had an accident or not.
This approach seemed logical until Barack Obama picked up the ball and started running with it.
So, now, it's probably a little hard to remember where this rocket ship was going. Why was this law passed in the first place?
1 — So people did not suffer and die as a result of having no insurance. That happens to about 20,000 people a year. In September, Sen. Angus King explained how his own life was saved by insurance that resulted in early detection of an often-fatal form of skin cancer.
2 — To provide access to health care for people with previous conditions. Insurance companies, bless their hearts, had generally refused to help very sick people.
3 — To make sure Americans were spared from losing their homes, savings and financial futures because of a serious illness.
4 — To allow Americans up to 26 years of age to remain on their parents' insurance policy so they can get their lives up and running.
5 — To help bend the health care cost curve by rewarding high quality care that keeps the sickest among us as healthy as possible and out of the hospital.
6 — To make sure Americans have access to affordable health insurance if they lose their job, or leave it to start their own company.
7 — To expand Medicaid coverage to Americans who cannot afford to buy insurance at all, even though they work and are above the poverty level.
8 — To reduce the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole" prescription gap.
There's more, but which parts of that aren't worth doing?
Like our space program of decades ago, the goals are very difficult to obtain. If they were easy, we would have done this long ago.
The law clearly isn't perfect, and it must improve. The process is messy, and it will disappoint some. The website is clearly a huge disappointment.
But what's the alternative? To do none of the above, or nothing at all?
Some Republicans are committed to destroying the Affordable Care Act at all cost.
They are very good rock throwers. While that's invigorating sport, developing a better alternative, or working to fix the problems with Obamacare, might be more useful.
The Republican American of Waterbury (Conn.), Nov. 13, 2013
Watch out — here comes the sequester's sequel. It's not going to be pretty, say federal lawmakers and budget analysts. The sequester has slipped many an American mind, mainly because it didn't really have much impact on ordinary people's lives. For those who have forgotten the whole thing in the turmoil of a partial government shutdown, the disastrous Obamacare rollout and the autumn exploits of the Boston Red Sox, it goes something like this:
"In 2011, Congress passed a law saying that if they (sic) couldn't agree on a plan to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion — including the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction lawmakers in both parties have already accomplished over the last few years — about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary and across the board budget cuts would start to take effect in 2013. Unfortunately, Congress hasn't compromised." That's right from the White House website, which neglects to point out the sequester was the Obama administration's idea.
Andrew Taylor of The Associated Press, by no means the voice of the tea party, made this point about the sequester, now in its ninth month:
"The first year of the automatic cuts didn't live up to the dire predictions from the Obama administration and others who warned of sweeping furloughs and big disruptions of government services." Why? Mr. Taylor waxed metaphorical: ".... (F)ederal agencies that have emptied the change jar and searched beneath the sofa cushions for money to ease the pain of sequestration have been so far able to make it through the automatic cuts relatively unscathed."
Perhaps the solution here is not to panic over the next round of sequester cuts, but to gaze with favor upon federal managers who were able to perform virtually the same amount of work despite enduring "about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary and across the board cuts."
The aforementioned Red Sox won the World Series despite injuries to talented, high-priced relief pitchers Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan. Others picked up the slack. Likewise, federal managers were able to make do without some of their high-priced talent. Why not give them some credit for that, rather than moaning in fear about the coming cuts?
Second, the federal government is loaded with duplication. Rather than depriving people of programs they value, and which may even be good for the country, why not take a whack at the culture of redundancy? As Brian Reidl of the conservative Heritage Foundation wrote in 2009, "Auditors examining wasteful duplication counted 342 economic-development programs, 130 programs for the disabled, 130 programs for at-risk youth and 90 early childhood development programs." If there were just 341 economic-development programs, would anyone notice the difference?
As some leaders on both sides of the aisle have argued, the sequester could benefit from more flexibility. But the government's, and the public's, reaction to Sequester 1 has provided an important lesson: Uncle Sam is one boy who shouldn't cry wolf a second time.