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Viewpoints
Debra Saunders
Obamacare: Just magical thinking
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Should Congress repeal Obamacare? If you had asked that before the botched Affordable Care Act rollout, I would have had a hard time answering yes. I didn’t see how the scheme could work, but I also believed that Washington owed the millions of Americans who I was told had been waiting desperately for years for guaranteed health care.

Now I say, “What’s in a name?” There’s no need for a repeal when Washington is bound to revamp the law. The reason: Consumers aren’t buying it.

According to the White House, more than 6 million people have signed onto Obamacare exchanges. Problem: The law kicked close to 5 million Americans off their private health care plans. Also, the administration says it doesn’t know how many new plan members actually are paying their premiums, so that 6 million figure could be highly inflated.

At best, more than 1 million extra Americans got new private coverage, while 5 million individual policyholders got kicked off their old plans. Some won’t have access to the doctors they were promised they could keep.

For many, the new plans are less affordable than their old plans. Industry graybeard Robert Laszewski found that many exchange providers “are just re-enrolling their old customers at higher rates.” Call it the Less Affordable Care Act.

Individuals who qualify for federal subsidies probably will pay lower premiums, but only because taxpayers are subsidizing their plans. How is that more affordable for America?

Obamacare also expanded Medicaid coverage for 7 million uninsured Americans. Thing is, President Barack Obama didn’t need to upend the private market in order to expand Medicaid coverage. The same goes for the highly popular but utterly nonsensical provision that allows adult children to stay on their parents’ health plans until they turn 26.

Already the Democrats are gutting Obamacare. The administration has delayed provisions 38 times, by the Wall Street Journal editorial page’s count. The White House even asked insurers to continue providing those “substandard” plans it had banned. Six Democratic senators have come up with a plan to offer consumers more choices, spur competition and increase affordability.

On “Fox News Sunday,” one of the six authors, Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with Democrats, essentially declared the Affordable Care Act dead. “There’s no such thing as Obamacare,” he said. “You can’t sign up for Obamacare. You’re signing up for an Anthem policy or an Aetna policy or a WellPoint policy. It’s private insurance.”

The private market has had many drawbacks but one salvation: Until Obamacare, people were free to refuse to pay for a bad deal.

Months ago, reader Bob Duste of Glen Ellen, Calif., wrote to tell me that under Obamacare, his premiums had doubled while his deductible went up by 25 percent. His family can take the hit, he wrote, but he was “disillusioned with the efficacy of most government programs that end up being forced upon the unwilling as opposed to a last resort for the downtrodden and truly indigent.”

Simply put, the Democrats didn’t know what they were doing, but that didn’t stop them from forcing their magical thinking on people who didn’t want it.

Email Debra J. Saunders at dsaunders@sfchronicle.com.
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