With computer glitches, has GOP finally found a way to kill Obamacare?

Since it first was proposed, Republicans have been saying they'd 'repeal and replace' the Affordable Care Act. Massive computer problems with Obamacare's roll-out may have given them their best chance to do that.

Brian Snyder/REUTERS
Janet Perez oversees specialists as they help callers and potential customers find health insurance at a customer contact and call center for HealthSource RI, Rhode Island's health insurance exchange program for the Affordable Care Act or "ObamaCare," in Providence, Rhode Island.

Republicans began trying to kill the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act way back when it was still a bill in Congress and “Obamacare” was a pejorative only later embraced by the President.

Not a single GOP member of the House or Senate voted for it.

They tried 40+ times to repeal it after Obama had signed it into law in 2010, even after a majority of the US Supreme Court (including Chief Justice John Roberts) had essentially upheld it – including the individual mandate – two years later.

Mitt Romney, their presidential candidate in 2012, ran on a “repeal and replace” platform – even though that case was a little hard to make since the former governor’s “Romneycare” in Massachusetts was the pattern for Obamacare.

So now, Republicans have perhaps their best opportunity to squelch Obamacare, which is undergoing emergency treatment for computer sign-up ailments that have stunned the White House and frustrated thousands of Americans trying to navigate the new health insurance program.

Few would disagree with what Daily Beast columnist Kirsten Power writes about the launch of Obamacare: “The rollout of the insurance exchange that is central to the success of the Affordable Care Act has been nothing short of a disaster.”

“This failure is a double whammy: it puts the future of Obamacare in even greater peril while placing Obama’s case for activist government on life support,” Ms. Power writes in a piece headlined “Obama Can’t Blame the Republicans This Time.” “If the government can’t build a functioning website to support the most important initiative of the president’s administration, then how can it be trusted to do anything?”

A new HuffPost/YouGov poll has Americans disapproving of Obama's handling of health care by a 56-39 percent margin.

The administration is scrambling to fix online “glitches” at HealthCare.gov.

Jeffrey Zients, a management consultant brought in by the White House to assess the extent of problems with the HealthCare.gov site, told reporters Friday his review found dozens of issues across the entire system, which is made up of layers of components interacting in real time with consumers, government agencies, and insurance company computers.

But Mr. Zients also said that the website “is fixable,” and that "by the end of November, HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for the vast majority of users.”

Still, although 700,000 people have applied for coverage through the new online markets, it's believed that only a fraction of that number actually managed to sign up.

Critics in Congress – Democrats as well as Republicans – want to slow down the process.

Several Senate Democrats have spoken out in favor of delaying the date by which individuals must buy health insurance, Politico.com reports. Sen. Joe Manchin (D) of West Virginia is drafting legislation that would delay the individual mandate. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D) of New Hampshire and Mark Pryor (D) of Arkansas want to extend the enrollment period. (Shaheen and Pryor are up for re-election next year.)

“I can’t honestly say that we’ve tried our hardest to fix things,” Sen. Manchin said on Bill O’Reilly’s Fox News talk show. “You have to give me a reason I want to buy what you want to sell me. And until they get that in their minds, they’re going to have a lot of headwind.”

During the recent staring contest over shutting down the federal government and possibly defaulting on the national debt, Obama seemed to come out the winner while Republicans were left with nothing for an exercise in political brinkmanship that drove their poll numbers downward.

Whether or not the current health exchange mess changes that is an open question.
“The problems with the Obamacare website have transformed the president from a man who seemed to have gotten a sudden infusion of political capital to a man who’s been pushed back on his heels,” writes Politico.com White House reporter Edward-Isaac Dovere. “He was firm, and he was setting the agenda. Now he’s back to trying to beat back the latest frame Republicans have forced on him, inadvertently providing evidence to support the doubts they’ve been trying to sow from the beginning.”

Chris Cillizza, who writes “The Fix” politics blog for the Washington Post, sees it differently.

“What the party did with the shutdown is dig a big hole and then jump into it,” he writes, noting Washington Post-ABC News polls showing that the Republican Party’s disapproval rate has climbed to 77 percent, with 59 percent “strongly” disapproving of the GOP. (That HuffPost/YouGov poll on health care cited above shows things even worse for congressional Republicans than it does for Obama: a disapproval rate of 63-27 percent.)

“Now, they have to scratch and crawl their way out,” Cillizza writes. “You have to wonder what the political landscape might look like if they didn’t dig the hole at all.”

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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