Democrats worry over Obamacare’s rocky start

Leading Dems worry the healthcare law's early failures will squander whatever advantages they gained post-shutdown

Topics: Dick Durbin, The Senate, Joe Manchin, Ben Cardin, Jeff Merkley, Kathleen Sebelius, The New York Times, New York Times,

Democrats worry over Obamacare's rocky startDick Durbin, Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein (Credit: Jeff Malet, Kang)

After a government shutdown that did massive damage to the Republican Party’s image, many Democrats were optimistic that the upcoming elections in 2014 could be theirs for the taking.

Then came’s early malfunctions and the rising tide of cancellation notices sent by insurance companies to those in the individual market.

Now, reports the New York Times, Democrats are worried that Obamacare’s dysfunctions and disruptions will squander the gains made during the government shutdown. They’re so worried, in fact, that they called White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough on Thursday for a special, closed-door meeting. As they filtered out of the room following the meeting’s conclusion, Democrats’ fears appeared to be far from assuaged.

“People are anxious,” Illinois’ Sen. Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, told the New York Times.

“I don’t think there’s confidence by anyone in the room,” added Oregon’s Sen. Merkley. “This is more a show-me moment. We were all confident that the system was going to be up and operating on Oct. 1. And now we’re not confident until it’s real.”

More from the New York Times:

The anxious include not only senators and House members facing hotly contested races but those whose seats are considered safe, as well as lawmakers in states with Republican governors who have done nothing to promote the health care law and in states with Democratic governors who have created state-run websites and made every effort to sign up the uninsured.

“It’s not working well,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, whose state was hailed by Mr. Obama as a model for the Affordable Care Act.


Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, has teamed with Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican of Georgia, to draft legislation delaying until 2015 the imposition of penalties on those who fail to buy health insurance. In an interview, Mr. Manchin said the problems went well beyond the potential penalties, and included individual insurance plans being canceled for failing to meet the law’s coverage requirements and a lack of health care choices in some parts of the country.

“Everybody’s upset about the computer; you can’t get on,” he said. “They’ll get through that. They better be worried about having a product at the end and being able to have adjustments to the product that really work.”

He continued: “Affordable health care means trying to get more people insurance that had no insurance. Making people who had insurance buy a different product that costs more for less coverage? You can’t go home and defend that.”

Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at

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