Obamacare has survived every challenge from the Republican Party, but not from the Obamacare website's own technical issues. PHOTO: Reuters
After months of debate, a Supreme Court challenge and an election where the Republican Party candidate promised its repeal, the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, appeared to be in the clear. Then came October 1st. Hailed by the Tea Party as the day they take their great stand against Obamacare by shutting down the government until Obamacare was defunded, that day turned out to be an infamous one for Obamacare for an entirely different reason. The official Obamacare website, healthcare.gov, did not work. Unable to handle the huge surge of traffic, the site stalled or crashed for many users. It was taken down for maintenance that weekend, but problems remained once the site went back up.
President Obama announced a “tech surge” (strangely invoking Bush’s troop “surge” in Iraq) to fix the problem. The success or failure of the Obamacare website maintenance could have far-reaching consequences, up to and including the Republican Party’s chances of taking the Senate and keeping the House in the 2014 midterm elections. The Republican Party is all-in on its opposition to Obamacare. Being against Obamacare is their only justification for the government shutdown, and the main policy prescription they have leading into the 2014 midterms, which are almost exactly a year away. After years of railing against the law and challenging it in every way imaginable, the Republican Party has one more recourse: hope that Obamacare is bad. And so far they are getting their wish.
It may take weeks to truly fix healthcare.gov. The site is operating now, but the initial problems sapped the momentum of signing up for health insurance under Obamacare. The fear now is that not enough total people will sign up, hurting the optics of Obamacare, and not enough healthy people will sign up. Healthy people buying insurance makes Obamacare worth it for insurance companies, who must also take on clients with preexisting conditions.
The Republican Party could take the Senate in 2014 or they could lose the House, or the status quo could remain. The crucial variable right now, is the date that we stop talking about healthcare.gov, and start talking about the actual healthcare provided by Obamacare.