Liberals to President Obama: Keep it together
By: Reid J. Epstein
November 14, 2013 05:00 PM EST
President Barack Obama never had the right wing on health care, has potentially lost the middle and with his attempted administrative fix is now in danger of losing the left.
Daily Kos launched a petition to urge Obama to stop apologizing for people losing their health care plans. Liberal MSNBC host Ed Schultz said Obama needs just to hold the line. And Howard Dean said the White House should just enlist Organizing for Action — the president’s political arm — to call every person who has lost their insurance plan due to Obamacare changes.
It’s all part of the growing liberal angst about Obama’s health care rollout. The failure of HealthCare.gov to launch was one thing, but Obama’s move Thursday to allow people to keep substandard insurance policies is, for many of them, a bridge too far. They want Obama to make sure the law isn’t killed piece by piece and don’t like the idea of giving the health insurance industry more power than it already has.
Dean, the former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate, has for weeks been bearish on the chances of the Obamacare website ever operating properly and believes it may not be salvageable. He said Thursday that it’s time for the White House to abandon the idea that it can use the Internet to enroll people through federal health exchanges.
“He may just have to get rid of the whole thing and start all over with a different group,” Dean told POLITICO. “In the meantime, get people enrolled the old fashioned way. We existed fine as a country before the Internet.”
Dean said Obama is “getting sucked into the politics of Washington” in offering the administrative fix to allow people to maintain substandard plans on the individual market. He said the president who got elected in part due to online political donations should go low-fi.
“I would not restore these substandard policies,” Dean said. “I would call those people who are losing their policies and get them into the exchange manually. If you have to hire 10,000 kids to populate call centers, do it. If there was ever a use for OFA, this is it.”
It’s not like Obama is holding the coalition together elsewhere.
Two of the most progressive House members – Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin held a rally in front of the White House gates Thursday at the very time Obama was speaking to protest any discussion of slowing the growth of Social Security payments.
And OFA, the political arm formed in January to support his policies, this week urged its supporters to pressure Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency to call for new carbon limits.
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), perhaps the Senate’s foremost Obamacare defender, Obama’s fix to allow individual market insurance plans to continue for another year isn’t one he would have made.
“If it had been up to me, I am not certain I would have made this decision, but the president felt it was important to do,” Harkin said in a statement. “My hope, however, is that everyone who has received a cancellation notice will fully and carefully consider their options. In the vast majority of cases, they will find that the coverage that they were paying good money for is not worth the paper it was printed on.”
Anna Galland, the executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action, said her members don’t want to see Obama accede to demands that he weaken the health care law in order to satisfy congressional critics.
“They don’t want to see this law eviscerated by death by a thousand cuts,” Galland said. “They want to see the law strengthened, they want to see the website work and have the law do all the good things it’s already doing.”
Galland said there is “deep concern” about proposed changes to the law that would allow for people to maintain substandard insurance plans.
“I think there is a Pandora’s box there once you start opening it up,” she said. “The answer is not to undo Obamacare or to undo major provisions of it like allowing these junk plans to continue. The answer is to get the website working and make sure everyone has quality, affordable health care.”
And Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said there should be no interest in maintaining health insurance plans that don’t provide sufficient coverage.
“Do we want to encourage polices that are totally inadequate, no we don’t. We want to move toward a situation where everybody regardless of income or age has strong coverage,” Sanders said. “Am I in favor of policies which are inadequate? I am not.”
Before Obama apologized 10 different times for the bungled health care rollout, there was already liberal angst about the White House getting wobbly on maintaining Obamacare.
Ed Schultz tweeted Thursday morning that no fixes would be necessary to the law.
“The only fix needed in health care reform is to abolish the junk insurance industry,” Schultz wrote. “The ACA does that ! Dems hold the line.”
And Daily Kos launched a petition urging Obama to start blaming insurance companies for people losing their health insurance.
“Why is President Obama apologizing — telling the American public on national TV that he’s ‘sorry’ to have promised that everyone can keep their health insurance? The actions of some of these companies proves why we needed health care reform in the first place: insurance companies are greedy, and cannot be trusted,” the petition reads. “It is time to set the record straight. Tell President Obama to stop apologizing for the despicable conduct of private insurance companies, and hold them accountable.”
Obama’s attempt to sidestep a legislative fix didn’t win over Markos Moulitsas, the Daily Kos publisher, who said Thursday afternoon that he remains in favor of the Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) proposal to codify many of the fixes Obama announced because it offers more specifics than the White House plan.
“I really like Landrieu’s bill because it would require insurance companies to inform customers of better plans available, and also require them to cite Obamacare law when blaming the law for any cancellations. I still think that’s the approach to take, and Obama’s announcement today took several steps in that direction.”