In my latest column, I proposed a delay of the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate because Americans should not be penalized for a system that does not function properly. Plus, the program could use a cooling-off period.
But let's get one thing straight: The American people are hungry for information about ObamaCare, and this a good sign for the program. The technical snafus will be fixed and in one month, two months or three months, the program will be judged by the quality of the products offered on the healthcare exchanges and the reaction of the customers to the products.
I will disclose today that during the ridiculous fiasco of the debt ceiling and government shutdown, I privately suggested to the White House and a very senior Democrat in Congress that there be a six-month to one-year delay in the individual mandate in return for a significant job program. I renew that suggestion today.
Regarding the exchanges, remember recent predictions by right-wing Republicans that there would be no consumer interest? Those predictions were completely wrong. There was, and is, great public interest. Economically hard-pressed citizens will spend the time to research the policies offered by the exchanges. The current problem is not that there is too little interest, but that there is too much, and that the system was not ready in time.
Substantial public interest is a good sign for the program. The critics were wrong about this. And regarding the system problems: Critics did not warn, and Republicans in Congress did not perform oversight, about this. Shame on them. Based on anecdotal evidence so far, my guess is that the exchanges will be a big success in blue states where Democratic governors did their jobs well, and that the worst problems will occur in red states where Republican governors obstructed the exchanges and failed to regulate the insurers. We will see, time will tell.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius should not be fired. The individual mandate should be delayed. The media should turn its attention to whether the insurance policies offered on the exchanges benefit consumers. And when they do, give credit accordingly, and when they do not, apportion blame fairly.
Make no mistake. Americans are highly interested in exploring the offerings of ObamaCare. This is good. This is positive. As this saga unfolds the verdict of consumers — not partisans or news cycle media — will determine the policy and political outcome.
This is what the right fears and the media misses. Let the program proceed, let the consumers decide, let the media report the facts, and then the voters — who tune out the partisans and pundits, as they should — will ultimately decide.