While nobody should mistake Tom Coburn for an Obamacare supporter, the Oklahoma senator nevertheless conceded on Thursday that a central element of the president's signature healthcare reform, the market exchanges, "will work and work well."
Speaking of the troubled Healthcare.gov website as well — as the difficulties experienced on the state-base level in places like Oregon and Maryland — Coburn said in a speech from the Senate floor that he was "not worried about the exchanges" and was confident that Democrats would "get that fixed." He chalked up the problems thus far to "incompetency of management."
Coburn's embrace of the exchanges is nonetheless significant, as Republicans continue to argue that Obamacare should be repealed and focus on problems with the rollout to prove their point. But as enrollment numbers have started to rise -- recently surpassing one million -- some of the GOP’s fiercest attack dogs have started to show signs of hedging from their hardline positions that the law should be done away with in its entirety.
Earlier this week, conservative hardliner Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also offered a mild endorsement of the law's state-based health care exchanges. He told National Review that while he continued to support full repeal, his party should transition to talking about "the reality of the situation" and how to address parts of the law that are already in place.
"Am I opposed to state-based exchanges? No," Johnson said. "It may be that they can be usable."