Yes, We Can — But Do We Want To?

Just as the Healthcare.gov website has been pronounced cured — mostly, maybe — of its various dysfunctions, and millions of Americans began to think that the hiccups of social revolution were over, news of more serious maladies have surfaced.

“Unable to connect” may soon seem like a minor upset compared to what’s in store for those who are succeeding in their efforts to connect with the government’s health program. The media is awash these days with stories of people who are discovering that the Affordable Care Act is not something they can afford, after all.

Millions of insured individuals discovered some weeks ago, as the leaves on the trees were changing to lovely shades of red and gold, that the price and quality of their coverage was also undergoing a change, albeit not so lovely. Their existing policies were being canceled because of the Affordable Care Act. Cries of outrage — they had been led to believe this would not happen — led to Mr. Obama’s offer to restore their policies. But in many cases this, too, was “unable to connect.” Some states that have their own exchanges, like California and New York, have said they will not do so.

The self-employed are among the first to experience the shocking realities of the Affordable Care Act. Many buyers of new, ACA-compliant health plans are now faced with premiums 30 percent higher — or more — than their previous coverage.

One group in particular suffering from Obamacare trauma is New York’s professional and cultural elite. These artists and professionals have until now been able to obtain their medical coverage through special group plans, by which they were able to avoid the notoriously high rates in New York’s individual insurance market.

But the Affordable Care Act is putting an end to much of that. Now they will be treated as individuals responsible for their own insurance policies, which for many will dramatically narrow treatment options, and will do so at unattractive prices.

No wonder thousands of writers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and opera singers — the kind of people who were among Obama’s most ardent supporters — are singing a different tune now about Affordable Care and the folks who put it together for them.

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild, whose insurance is being canceled, and who can find neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner on the exchange plans.

Barbara Meinwald, a Manhattan lawyer, has been paying $10,000 a year for her insurance through the New York City Bar. A new, temporary plan with fewer doctors would cost $5,000 more, after factoring in the cost of her medications.

Despite being a lifelong Democrat, Meinwald said that had she known what to expect, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

“Yes, we can” is acquiring the anguished retort… “But we don’t want to.”

It’s being suggested these days that had Republicans, who apparently had a lot of the damaging facts about Obamacare in their possession, made a more compelling case against it, they might have won.

But such musings already belong to the what-if’s of history. It is likely that no argument against such sweeping changes in the healthcare system, no matter how correct and cogent, could have changed the outcome of the 2012 election. Of course, we can always ask, “What If” the Republicans had found a more marketable candidate than Mitt Romney…

For years, conservatives have been complaining that liberals would be less enthusiastic about the social engineering they advocate if they were the ones who had to participate in the experiments. Affluent white suburban liberals and their children did not suffer the real hardships and hazards of court-ordered busing to promote racial integration; nor did they bear the brunt of the environmental zeal that all too often imposed unreasonable restrictions on rural populations.

The dismay being voiced by Obama supporters who are being hurt by the Affordable Care Act serves as irrefutable confirmation of that critique. Change in the abstract, change for others, is one thing; it can be quite another when it means changing your own life.

But any gloating over their predicament will be short-lived. All of us are affected in one way or another by Affordable Care. We are all in this together, and the challenge will be to fix it as quickly as possible, or replace it altogether in the course of time.

There is a larger issue, too, that must be grappled with. Many people are coming to the conclusion that the promised land of more, better, cheaper everything for everyone may never be reached. That there is a price to be paid for taking care of the poor, and not just by the rich; the middle classes have to pay, too. And that even then, the problems of poverty and race will never be fully abolished by government.

There is no doubt that the buyer’s remorse experienced by Obama supporters — soon to be former supporters— is genuine. Whether it will lead to a deeper rethinking of the assumptions that paved the way for this debacle remains to be seen.