After years of waiting and a hellacious autumn of website glitches and system failure, Paul Krugman writes in his latest column for the New York Times that it's time for Obamacare supporters to celebrate — and time for reform's opponents to admit defeat.
"The Affordable Care Act, a k a Obamacare, has made a stunning comeback from its shambolic start," Krugman writes. "As the March 31 deadline for 2014 coverage approached, there was a surge in applications at the 'exchanges' — the special insurance marketplaces the law set up. And the original target of seven million signups, widely dismissed as unattainable, has been surpassed."
"This is a very big deal indeed," he adds.
Krugman's argument is pretty straightforward: Obamacare was always going to be overly complicated and a bit messy, largely due to the fact that it was a complex political solution to what, in policy terms, is a rather simple problem.
"Remember, giving everyone health insurance doesn’t have to be hard; you can just do it with a government-run program," Krugman writes. "But it wasn’t politically possible, for a couple reasons," mainly the power of the health insurance industry as well as the fact that most people like their employer-provided insurance.
Because of Obamacare's "Rube Goldberg" nature (as Krugman puts it), it was always possible that its technical hiccups would be seized upon by its opponents as proof of its fundamental unworkability. "And last fall," Krugman writes, "that nightmare seemed to be coming true."
Yet now Obamacare's surpassed its 7 million sign-up goal and, as far as Krugman sees it, happy days are more or less here — finally. "[T]he nightmare is over," Krugman declares, "This thing is going to work."
So what's next? Krugman advises Obamacare fans enjoy this long-elusive moment vindication — and needle a few Obamacare-doubting conservatives while they're at it, too:
And, yes, it’s also a big political victory for Democrats. They can point to a system that is already providing vital aid to millions of Americans, and Republicans — who were planning to run against a debacle — have nothing to offer in response. And I mean nothing. So far, not one of the supposed Obamacare horror stories featured in attack ads has stood up to scrutiny.
So my advice to reform supporters is, go ahead and celebrate. Oh, and feel free to ridicule right-wingers who confidently predicted doom.
Clearly, there’s a lot of work ahead, and we can count on the news media to play up every hitch and glitch as if it were an existential disaster. But Rube Goldberg has survived; health reform has won.