MUHAMMAD: Time to Give President His 'Obamacare' Respect

Askia Muhammad | 4/9/2014, 3 p.m.
Congratulations, President Obama and team!
President Obama, with Vice President Joe Biden, speaks April 1 in the Rose Garden of the White House about the Affordable Care Act.

Back in September 2013 – what seems like an eternity ago in political time – I joined members of the Trotter Group of African American Columnists and Commentators at an Off-the-Record dinner meeting with White House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett. The one take-away from that meeting of which I am certain – because it was reiterated publicly time and time again in the run up to the launch of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on Oct. 1 – was that the administration’s goal was to register 7 million people into the various health care exchanges.

Then came October and the computer meltdown which accompanied the first days of the registration period opened President Barack Obama up to more criticism than President George W. (for Worst in History) Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney received for water boarding and other torture of terror suspects.

Never mind the noble proclaimed goal of Obamacare – the label that stuck for better or for worse – the president and his allies appeared to be up the proverbial creek without a paddle.

His Republican opponents in Congress made bank out of the failure of the computer system, a system which had nothing to do with the relative merits of the law itself. In the House of Representatives – bullied by the minority Tea Party Caucus of his majority conference – Speaker John Boehner scheduled 43 (count them) futile votes to repeal Obamacare. In the Senate Florida Republican Ted Cruz staged an all-night filibuster-like spectacle which had absolutely no affect on anyone or anything. They did not lift a finger to help make the law better. Their goal was and remains: repeal it.

And then came the computer “glitch” and “Good Lord: What is we going to do now Boss?”

Well the team that couldn’t shoot straight hung in there. January rolled around. Then came February, and it didn’t appear that the administration would even come close to reaching its stated goal for the number of new registrants.

Let me pause here to say that the ACA is not health care delivery legislation in the strict sense. It is health insurance delivery legislation. Will it change the reliance of the uninsured to use hospital emergency rooms as their primary health treatment system? That remains to be seen? Will Obamacare increase the availability of needed family doctors and primary care physicians away from the trend among med school grads to go into pricey board-certified options in order to pay back their expensive college loans and then go on to get rich performing glitzy procedures for wealthy clients? Probably not.

What this country needs – and may still be able to eventually have – is a system like the Canadian system. Some call it “Medicare for all.” That is, on the day a child is born, that child is enrolled in the medical delivery system about which there are not a whole lot of complaints – Medicare. The U.S. old-age-medical delivery system seems to work fairly well, with not a lot of complaints from senior citizens.