(Bloomberg) — Imagine that someone had told you a year ago what Obamacare would look like in April 2014.
Let’s say he predicted that the number of people with health insurance would rise, but by much less than the Congressional Budget Office was projecting.
Much of this increase would come from putting more people on Medicaid rather than from the commercial “qualified health plans” (QHPs) sold through the public exchanges, which were supposed to be the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
He went on to predict that President Barack Obama would feel compelled to let people stay in insurance plans that don’t comply with PPACA’s regulations, and he would decide to delay several parts of the law. That the law would turn out to discourage work, in part by making it pay less. That it would remain unclear how many states were going to have stable exchanges. And that Obamacare, already unpopular, would get a little more so.
That would have been seen as a pessimistic forecast. But that’s what happened.
My point isn’t to take away from the administration’s achievement in recovering from the disastrous rollout of the online insurance exchanges, which is genuinely impressive and a real boost for the White House in terms of both politics and policy. It’s to provide some perspective on that achievement.
This is not a success story. It’s a survival story.
It looks like more than that only because, for a few weeks in October and November, the rollout made Obamacare’s collapse seem like a possibility. The website fiasco was a development that almost no one, on either side of the debate, had predicted.
Now that it’s resolved, the debate continues basically along the same lines that everyone expected a year ago. The law will continue to be implemented, with the administration making whatever revisions it thinks necessary. Opponents will continue to criticize it but be unable to repeal or significantly change it as long as Democrats hold the White House. Supporters will hope that it gets more popular, or at least more entrenched, as more people receive benefits from it.