With enrollment data coming in well below expectations and President Barack Obama's numbers hitting all-time lows, it's clear that the botched Obamacare implementation has become a bona fide political problem.
The enrollment numbers are actually not that terrible. While the media and Republicans are focusing on the roughly 100K that have chosen a plan, fact is that 846,000 have completed their applications, but haven't chosen a plan. Part of that is technical difficulties. Part of that is people doing their due diligence before making an important decision. Part of it is procrastination. Why spend too much time now doing something that won't take effect until January?
If the enrollment numbers remain low in late December and January, then that would certainly be cause for concern. But right now? During Romneycare's first enrollment month, 130 people had signed up—130. But the optics of those numbers aren't great, particularly given previous administration-supplied projections.
On the other hand, the optics of Obama's broken promise that everyone would be able to keep their insurance are brutal. We are in "Read my lips, no new taxes" territory. Sure, Obama's claim was supposed to apply only to employer-provided insurance, but he never qualified it as such. So now we're subjected to endless stories about people losing their (crappy substandard) insurance, even though Obama said they wouldn't.
So enter Sen. Mary Landrieu's fix to this issue (see here and here for details). In short, it would allow people to keep their crappy individual insurance policies, but insurance companies would be unable to keep selling them to new customers, and they'd have to let their customers know why the government considers their policies crap and point them to the exchanges for other options. The idea may not be a home run on the policy side, but Democrats don't have the benefit of perfect policy having botched this thing so badly (from original passage to implementation). But even on the policy, it's not terrible.
But on the politics? Woo-boy it's a winner! Remember, some policies are being cancelled because they are substandard. Some are being cancelled because insurance companies are trying to scam their customers into more expensive plans. In both cases, the problem is the insurance companies.
Right now, the blame is being put on Obama and the Democrats. This bill would turn things around and put the pressure exactly where it belongs: on insurance companies and obstructionist Republicans.
Republicans are acting as if these insurance cancellations are the worst thing since Hitler. Well, put them on the spot: Are they really interested in mitigating the law's unintended injustices (whether real or perceived), or do they merely want to undermine its implementation for sabotage purposes?
We know the answer, of course. Landrieu's bill doesn't have a prayer of passing. Republicans will obstruct it every step of the way. But instead of having Obama taking away your insurance, we'll reverse the equation: It'll now be Republicans defending the ability of insurance companies to cancel those policies.
Heading into 2014, that may be the difference between retaining the political high ground, or facing another 2010. Landrieu's gambit is genius.