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Minority of One blog

Can Obamacare work?

Steve Chapman

4:15 PM CDT, October 21, 2013

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Democrats worked for 60 years to get a federal program to achieve something resembling universal health insurance. Too bad they didn't use that time to make sure that when they got it, it would work.

Americans are often portrayed as bitterly divided along ideological lines. But on most issues, they're pragmatic. A federal program that works is acceptable. One that doesn't is not. That's one big reason Republicans were so anxious to block the implementation of Obamacare -- the suspicion that if it took effect, it would function well enough to win broad support, even among GOP voters.

Apparently they needn't have worried. So far the program has been a procession of snafus and stumbles, with many people unable to enroll. Public patience isn't going to last forever.

Some glitches were inevitable. No one remembers that when President Bush's Medicare prescription drug program started up in 2006, lots of seniors were unable to get their medicines because the system got overloaded. But that turned out to be a passing problem. Obamacare's may be more persistent. And that could be fatal to its chances of success. Even it isn't repealed, it could wither into a marginal program.

It started out at a disadvantage because of uniform Republican opposition and the fact that many people -- those who already had insurance -- were unconvinced there was anything in it for them. Smooth implementation would have overcome a lot of doubts. Instead, the doubts are multiplying. ¿

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