First up, Michael Tomasky:
Think of it this way. Did you think, last fall, that they’d actually hit the 7 million? Did you think they’d even come close? In a year-end column I wrote with my 2014 predictions, I said they’d make 5.8 million. And I thought that would be respectable. The latest report is that they’re approaching 7.5 million. So yes, there was utter failure. But there was one hell of a nice recovery. As time goes on, I think Sebelius will start getting less blame for the former, and more credit for the latter.Barbara Shelly at The Kansas City Star:
But her fate will be forever tied to Obamacare. If it succeeds, she’ll share the credit as the secretary who helped bring it to life. If it fails, she’ll share the blame. It’s about that simple. And I think it’ll probably succeed.
The headlines make her sound like a combat casualty, ending her “stormy tenure” after the “disastrous rollout” of HealthCare.gov, stumbling away battered and bloodied.More on this and the day's top stories below the fold.
But, seriously, the woman has lived in a furnace for five years. She’s been dragged in front of Congressional committees, pilloried by pundits and politicians, abandoned by friends (looking at you, Sen. Pat Roberts) and asked to build a massive health insurance marketplace with scant resources. Frankly, a lesser individual would have bailed months ago...[T]ake the long view. People in time will forget about the blank screens and error messages that accompanied the start of HealthCare.gov. The website will continue to improve and people will find it easier and more understandable. Already 7.5 million persons have coverage through the insurance exchange. [...]
Health care reform has been like a big boulder scraping up a hill. And there’s a long distance yet to climb. But the system is fairer and better now than it was when President Barack Obama began his push five years ago, and Sebelius has been in the middle of it all. Someday, not too long from now, Sebelius will assume a comfortable spot in history as Obama’s HHS secretary during the epic health care wars. She voluntarily entered the furnace, and she stood in with a measure of grace.
Amy Davidson at The New Yorker:
When the Affordable Care Act’s online exchange was launched, in October, and didn’t work, calling for Sebelius to go was a way of saying that the whole project ought to be discarded. There would have been a broad effort to send pieces of the A.C.A. out the door with her, as if they were personal items thrown into a cardboard box. Now, the Administration seems confident enough that the law will live; they can let her go without being quite as afraid that anyone but Sebelius herself is paying a price.And over at Think Progress, Igor Volsky notes one big Sebelius achievement:
Sebelius leaves the office having enrolled some 10 million people in health care coverage. This was only possible because she convinced numerous Republican lawmakers in bright red states to extended health care coverage to the poorest Americans. No one is talking about it, but it is her biggest and most impressive achievement as secretary. [...] To convince political opponents like Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) or Arkansas’ Republican-controlled legislature to adopt one of Obamacare’s most significant coverage provisions, HHS approved alternative proposals that allowed states to use federal funding to cover their low-income uninsured populations with private insurance. [...]Turning to the continued Republican obstruction of affordable health care, Paul Krugman examines those Republican efforts to block Medicaid:
The flexibility extended beyond Medicaid. Sebelius and her team convinced red states to form partnership health care exchanges in which the federal government and the state would share responsibilities in running the marketplaces. They routinely presented GOP governors with information on all other state models and waivers, assuring them that they could customize reform to their specific state needs. As a result, several Republican-dominated states bucked the national party and chose to run their exchanges either on their own, or in collaboration with HHS.
[W]hile supposed Obamacare horror stories keep on turning out to be false, it’s already quite easy to find examples of people who died because their states refused to expand Medicaid. According to one recent study, the death toll from Medicaid rejection is likely to run between 7,000 and 17,000 Americans each year.Meanwhile, this:
But nobody expects to see a lot of prominent Republicans declaring that rejecting Medicaid expansion is wrong, that caring for Americans in need is more important than scoring political points against the Obama administration. As I said, there’s an extraordinary ugliness of spirit abroad in today’s America, which health reform has brought out into the open.
And that revelation, not reform itself — which is going pretty well — is the real Obamacare nightmare.
When reporters asked Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) about reelection campaign ads that incorrectly imply 300,000 people in the state have lost their health insurance plans as a result of Obamacare, he licked his lips and dug in.
"Clearly, the ad's accurate," Scott told reporters gathered outside a senior center in Miami on Wednesday.
"But it's not, governor!" insisted one reporter, who pointed out that the Blue Cross-run agency at the center of the claim had already debunked the numbers. A second reporter continued to question the assertion, which has been factchecked by newspapers across the state and discredited. Scott, however, remained unmoved before being "quickly ushered away by his media aide," according to CBS...