Republicans aren’t impressed with the Obama administration’s claim that HealthCare.gov is now effectively fixed. That’s not really the issue, they’ve started to say. No, the problem is canceled policies, lost doctors and higher premiums. Who cares if the website is working?
That is a far cry from the early days of October when a dysfunctional website was “proof” that Obamacare “has been an unmitigated disaster” in the words of House Speaker John Boehner in an Oct. 4 statement.
But that’s no longer the preferred talking point. Instead, the GOP has become enamored with insurance cancellations that they say violate President Obama’s “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” promise and claims of rate shock. Boehner reinforced that shift at his most recent press conference.
“It’s not just a broken website,” he said Tuesday. “This bill is fundamentally flawed, causing people to lose the doctor of their choice, causing them to lose their health plan, and if that’s not enough, they have to pay more in premiums.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) echoed the same point moments later.
“While the White House wants to claim that HealthCare.gov is now working, we know that Obamacare is still plagued with problems,” he said. “This is not something that is helping Americans. It is harming people who need help most right now.”
This evolution has been underway for a while. When House Republicans interrogated Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at an Oct. 30 hearing ostensibly focused on the website, they spent half the time asking about the “keep your health plan” promise. A week later, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) told another top administration official that he was “sure you’ll be able to fix the website” but he was “more concerned” about canceled policies.
But the switch now seems to be complete. Sure, Republicans will still raise questions about the website when it suits them — Cantor mentioned security concerns and problems with the back-end on Tuesday — but it’s no longer the headline.
In the words of Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX): “So Obamacare is fixed now that the website has been improved? Not on your life.”