OK. I’ve officially had enough of this Republican gloating about HealthCare.gov. Yes, it was a major and inexcusable fiasco, as I wrote last week. So they were entitled to a week of “we told ya so.” Or even two. But really, it’s practically a month now. Enough already. I know that we expect no decency from these people, so this will sound naïve, but truly, what they should be doing now is helping their constituents figure it all out. That’s what the Democrats did in a similar situation.
I refer, of course, to the Medicare Part D implementation in late 2005 and early 2006. That was the big prescription drug bill passed in 2003. You remember—it’s the one where the Republicans didn’t have the votes in the House, even though they controlled the House, and Speaker Tom DeLay held the floor open for 15 minutes after the bell rang as his lieutenants went around and badgered and threatened some GOP members until they changed their vote from nay to aye. My, how at home DeLay would have been with the Tea Partiers.
Anyhow. Most Democrats voted against the bill. In the House just 16 of 203 Democratic members voted yes. In the Senate, however, 11 of 48 Democrats voted for the new Bush entitlement. First, let’s just stop right there. Could you imagine 16 and 11 Republicans ever voting for an Obama legislative priority, something that was clearly Obama’s “baby” in the same way that the Part D bill was Bush’s? There’d be no end to the slobbering over Republicans for being so reasonable. As I recall, the Democrats were attacked at the time for not supporting the bill enough.
So they didn’t. And then, two years later, the rollout came. It was a mess. In mid-October 2005, the Bush administration announced a delay. Reason? It was Yom Kippur, and evidently no one wanted to offend elderly Jews who wouldn’t be using their computers. Right. So it was delayed. But a month later, as Jon Perr noted recently at Crooks & Liars, the planned comparison-shopping website still wasn’t up and running. Even after it finally was, it was confusing and a mess. Some sample headlines: “Web-based Comparison of Prescription Plans Delayed,” The Washington Post; “Glitches Mar Launch of Medicare Drug Plan,” The Wall Street Journal; “President Tells Insurers to Aid Ailing Medicare Drug Plan,” The New York Times.
Needless to say, some of the same people now trying to put the hex on Obamacare spent 2006 pooh-poohing—you guessed it—“glitches,” as Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) put it back then. I’m sure they’d say they’re different things, and it’s true the Affordable Care Act is a bigger undertaking. But they’re precisely similar in spirit—big, new government programs that depended largely on citizen interaction via personal computer. And the ACA fixes what was the biggest problem created by Part D, the so-called doughnut hole in prescription drug coverage. So the Obama bill corrects what was conspicuously awful about the Bush bill. Yes, they are different!
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