The mainstream media takes a victory lap

AwardTalk about counting your chickens! An article this morning at the Wire titled “Pundit Accountability: The Best and Worst Obamacare Predictions” is handing out awards, including booby prizes, for the best and worst predictions about the success of the health care law, which presumably is now unqualified.

Among the winners is Jonathan Cohn, of The New Republic, for his Nov. 13, 2013 article, which — according to Wire author Arit John — predicted that “Obamacare will be fine.” (The Cohn passage John quotes says nothing of the kind. If anything, it has a distinctly cautious tone, but we are here to praise Obamacare, so on with the show.)

Among the losers? Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, who wrote on Oct. 14, 2013:

If the federal government can’t manage a simple Web site, how on earth is it going to manage the health care of millions of Americans? …. President Obama may have no choice but to delay the individual mandate. [Emphasis added]

Obama has of course done precisely what Thiessen predicted — his hardship exemption from enrollment effectively neutralizes the individual mandate — but, again, we are here to gloat.

Will this presidential election be the most important in American history?

Of course, John is merely following in his fearless leader’s footsteps. Obama famously took a victory lap of his own yesterday, telling a group of loyalists assembled in the Rose Garden:

[The] law is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s working. It’s helping people from coast to coast, all of which makes the lengths to which critics have gone to scare people or undermine the law, or try to repeal the law without offering any plausible alternative so hard to understand. I’ve got to admit, I don’t get it. Why are folks working so hard for people not to have health insurance? Why are they so mad about the idea of folks having health insurance? Many of the tall tales that have been told about this law have been debunked. There are still no death panels. (Laughter.) Armageddon has not arrived. Instead, this law is helping millions of Americans, and in the coming years it will help millions more.

He then went on to recount anecdotal “success” stories, as is his wont. So in Obama’s calculus, people who have genuinely been hurt by the law (which include the 5-plus million who lost their coverage and the countless others who lost their doctors) are “tall tales … that have been debunked.”

More important, though, is the claim that “there are still no death panels.” The law is young, Mr. President. The groundwork has been laid (it’s in Section 1233 of bill HR 3200, the Affordable Care Act), which mandates that physicians arrange consultations with Medicare patients every five years (more frequently if the person is sick) to review “the continuum of end-of-life services and supports available, including palliative care and hospice, and benefits for such services and supports that are available….”) Supporters of the law will point out that doctors have been doing this for years with older patients, which is true. But now there is an incentive (i.e., a check from the government) to have these sobering (for the patient) chats.

Currently, details have yet to be determined about how many of the supposed 7.1 million who signed up are paying customers and what percentage are young and healthy. Even if those numbers are favorable to the short-term sustainability of the Affordable Care Act — big if — don’t suppose for a minute that if adverse selection becomes a reality at some point down the road that physicians will not be paid more to pressure older, sicker patients to exercise their “out” clause. As J.E. Dyer has written, welfare-state governments are notorious for their imposition of final solutions for members of society who have outlived their usefulness.

In Britain they call it the Liverpool Care Pathway, and last year some 60,000 patients were sent down this road without being told.

The President and his cheerleaders in the mainstream media want you to believe not just that they have turned a corner but that they have turned the corner: that from this point forward, it is all green lights and blue skies for the Affordable Care Act. In truth, the optimistic thing that can be said about this law is that it is a work in progress. Only time will tell whether yesterdays’ high fives among administration members and the MSM were warranted.

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