Published October 21. 2013 4:00AM
One of the amusing ironies of the misguided attempt by a group of tea party Republicans in the House to defund the Affordable Care Act through a form of political extortion, is that news of the resulting government shutdown and near default ended up deflecting attention away from the troubled rollout of "Obamacare."
In the 36 states that chose the option of letting the federal government fully or partially run their health insurance exchanges - allowing individuals to choose among competing plans online - there were reports of serious and aggravating problems. In many cases the exchanges did not work, and some are still not working.
Interestingly in Connecticut, which chose to operate its own exchange - Access Health CT - the opening went fairly smoothly, with some problems, but not more than might be expected with the launching of any such complex program. Nearly 4,000 state residents signed up for insurance the first two weeks.
While national problems received media attention, it was dwarfed by the bigger issues of the closing of government services and the calamity global markets faced if Congress refused to lift the debit limit. After President Obama and Democrats stood firm in their refusal to abandon or delay the implementation of the health care program, Republican leadership buckled, agreeing to a plan to extend government spending and the debt ceiling for several months.
This situation exposes the most fundamental flaw among anti-Obamacare zealots. If the act is as flawed as critics contend, why don't they let it unfold? If their predictions of doom and gloom prove accurate, Obamacare will be so unpopular that Republicans will have a ready-made issue for the 2014 and 2016 elections, and ultimately gain the electoral victories they need to drastically alter or repeal the ACA.
The real fear, it seems, is that it will work, or at least set the expectation that government should play a role in helping assure that people have access to health insurance coverage. Even should Obamacare prove too unwieldy and costly, and fall short of its goals, the public will expect Republicans to come up with an alternative policy. No longer will it be acceptable to tolerate 40 million people without access to insurance.
Much of the opposition to Obamacare appears visceral. Republicans still chafe against the fact Democrats pushed through the ACA without any GOP votes and finalized it in the lame-duck 2010 session before Republicans, having won a majority in the House, could take control.
It's time to get over it.