The Buzz

The facts, faces and hum of local politics with Steve Kraske and Dave Helling

Obamacare soon to be everyone's health care

09/26/2013 4:28 PM

09/26/2013 4:54 PM

Politicians often say things they later regret. “Read my lips: No new taxes,” comes to mind. Also, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”

President Barack Obama has said some unfortunate things during his time in office, too. I bet he wishes he hadn’t said Syria would cross a “red line” if it used chemical weapons.

But the silliest thing Obama has ever said came during the debate over health insurance reform. “If you like your insurance,” he said, “you can keep it.”

Sounds like a guy who’s never had to sign up for health insurance.

Like most of America, I get my health coverage at work. Maybe you do, too.

It’s changing this year, just as it changed last year and the year before that. No one ever “keeps” a health insurance product — premiums are raised, providers come and go, co-pays and deductibles change, rules are adjusted. Even Medicare’s costs and benefits can wobble.

That was true, by the way, long before the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans predict a train wreck Tuesday when the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces open. And they’re undoubtedly right. For some, the new health care law

will

be a disaster. Working hours will be cut back, policies adjusted, premiums higher than expected.

For others, though — for sicker patients who couldn’t get any affordable insurance, for example — the law is a miracle. So your verdict on Obamacare will largely depend on your own work, health, family and insurance situation.

That garbles the politics of the health care debate, of course. Some people are livid, others ecstatic.

But it’s a real issue for policy wonks, too, who will eventually have to decide whether Obamacare has “worked.”

How do they make that judgment? The price of health care? Health insurance costs? Healthier people? More government spending? Less? More jobs? Fewer?

All of the above, perhaps, and more. And the final judgment inevitably will be distorted by partisans on both sides, who will see what they want to see.

But the actual answer will largely depend on each American’s place in life — a messy, difficult, complicated way to gauge public policy.

Which only means we’ll be arguing about Obamacare for years to come.

Someday Republicans will control the government, and they’ll try to disassemble Obamacare. Trust me, Democrats will call that a train wreck.

It’s highly unlikely, though, that any future president will ever again promise you can keep your insurance if you like it. In our current system, that’s a commitment no one can make.

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