Prepare people for Obamacare

Posted: May 03, 2013

At a recent closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats are reported to have deluged White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough with a litany of concerns about Obamacare. It was a puzzling report for those of us who have been warning about the consequences of this bill since the day it was first proposed.

Higher premiums, lost jobs, burdensome compliance costs - all these things were entirely predictable and widely expected, which is why not a single Republican in Congress voted for the law and public support hasn't risen above 50 percent in the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for the health-care "train wreck" that's about to be inflicted upon hardworking Americans.

The fact is, Obamacare needs to be repealed.

Those who wrote this law in private now have an obligation to own up to its consequences in a very public fashion. Rather than look for scapegoats at the White House or blame bureaucrats at the Department of Health and Human Services, the men and women who argued so loudly in favor of this bill in the face of overwhelming evidence of its dangers should now either explain what's coming or join Republicans in repealing it.

For more than a year, President Obama and his allies in Congress tried to sell the idea of a government takeover of health care. When that failed, they realized the only way they would ever get a bill passed was by ignoring public opinion, sidelining Republicans, rejecting transparency, and ramming it through Congress by hook or by crook. Wavering Democrat senators were bought off with legislative favors and other promises of support. Others were strong-armed into voting "yes" in the early hours of Christmas Eve morning in 2009.

In short, Washington Democrats made a willful choice to charge ahead with this law despite public opposition, and despite the warnings of not just Republicans, but independent experts across the country. It's long past time they took responsibility for the law they devised behind closed doors by admitting its flaws publicly.

Taking responsibility, however, is just a first step. More importantly, those responsible for enacting this bill need to prepare their constituents for the consequences they're now fretting about in private. According to a survey released this week, 49 percent of Americans do not understand how the law will affect their families, and I'm sure many have questions like "What will happen to my health coverage?" and "How will I be able to navigate this new government bureaucracy?"

Democrats need to answer these types of questions. They also need to help prepare families and younger Americans for the skyrocketing premiums many of them will soon see. They need to prepare part-time workers for shrinking paychecks as employers cut back hours to comply with the law's mandates. They need to publicly own up to the fact that small-business owners have no idea how to comply with the law's nearly 20,000 pages of rules and regulations.

In short, Democrats owe it to their constituents to be as open and honest about the consequences of this law as they are with White House officials in private. They need to be as loud in outlining its consequences as they were in touting its purported benefits. Maybe that way they'll finally realize it's OK to oppose Obamacare, and that the days of writing massive bills in private and rushing them through Congress with little input from the public are over.

The president has refused repeated Republican calls to take concerns about Obamacare public and prepare the American people for the changes ahead. In fact, on Tuesday, he actually chose to do the exact opposite, saying that "this thing's already happened" for most Americans. "Full stop, that's it . . . they don't have to worry about anything else."

Well, that's simply untrue, and that kind of misleading statement is only going to cause more Americans to be blindsided when more pieces of the law start to take effect.

The president may believe that support for Obamacare will fall further if Americans learn more about it. And he's right. But that's no excuse to avoid the responsibility that comes with preparing the public for a law that even some of its most ardent supporters are now describing as a "train wreck" waiting to happen.

Meanwhile, Republicans will continue our fight to repeal this law. In recent weeks, we've seen more and more of the president's allies join us in raising the alarm. That's a great sign. Americans deserve better than to see elected leaders, who championed this law and then rushed it through Congress, now cowering behind closed doors, fretting about its consequences.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, is the Senate Republican leader.

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