Obama hasn’t been much help to Obamacare | LI Herald

I’ve seen a lot of presidents come and go. The vast majority of them have made some type of mistake that hurt their popularity as well as their legacy, but there hasn’t been as big a mistake as President Obama’s mishandling of so-called Obamacare.

To his credit, the president has been willing to embrace the comprehensive health plan and allow it to be directly linked to him. But as Gen. Colin Powell once said, “You break it, you own it.” And by all accounts, in the minds of members of the public, Obama broke it and owns it.

The first mistake that any politician can and will make is how the original passage of Obamacare took place. The president was anxious to get his comprehensive health plan passed and signed into law. Instead of keeping a close eye on the process, he allowed then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to run the show.

The bill was allowed to be controlled by Pelosi and Reid, and they made the biggest mistake that any experienced leaders could make. Instead of having parts of the law become effective almost immediately, they passed a bill that would not benefit the public before 2014. So what happened? All the detractors of broad health care jumped on it with glee.

You have to give the haters of this major Democratic proposal a lot of credit. A look back in history shows that when Congress created Social Security and Medicare, many parts of it were available to the public by a year after it became law. So, in the case of Obamacare, opponents have had lots of time to make it look and sound like the bitterest possible medicine.

Every poll on the subject produces big negative numbers against the plan. Tons of money have been spent by various special interests demonizing the president and his plan. And there’s no doubt that this two-year window of opportunity has been very successful.

The House of Representatives, controlled by the conservative wing of the Republican Party, has voted to repeal Obamacare more than 40 times. It’s almost as if Congress was sent to Washington to do one thing only and forget about jobs, the economy and immigration reform. But a funny thing seems to be happening out in the real world, far from Washington. During the summer recess, many members of Congress hold town hall forums. There have been a series of reports showing that the public is asking members “not to take away my health care.” Because some of the reforms have trickled down, people are starting to realize that there are some good parts along with the bad.

Members of the public like the idea that their insurance coverage can’t be taken away if they have a pre-existing condition. Seniors are happy with the fact that the coverage gap on the purchase of drugs has been changed to save them out-of-pocket costs. This is often referred to as closing the “donut hole.” Parents of children in their 20s are equally thrilled that their kids’ health coverage has been extended to age 26.

Maybe the current summer recess will have some impact on the thinking of some members of Congress, helping them realize that Obamacare, with all its warts, will grant 30 million people a chance to get real health insurance for the first time. So if Obamacare isn’t really that bad, why don’t more people like it?

You can blame its unpopularity on the groups that have fought it, but a good chunk of the blame lies with Obama himself, who has failed to make a case for a plan that was destined to be his legacy. Congress will never be able to repeal the landmark law, but the failure of the president to sell his own initiative will haunt him for decades to come.

Jerry Kremer’s new book, “Winning Albany, Untold Stories About the Famous and Not So Famous,” will be available on Oct. 10.

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