“’Tis but a scratch!”
So insists the knight after King Arthur cuts off his left arm in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When Arthur severs his right arm and begs him to surrender, the obstreperous knight again refuses: “Just a flesh wound,” he claims.
Given the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, one could easily conflate Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ performance on Capitol Hill recently with Python’s knight scene. Secretary Sebelius had no explanation for what has caused the massive technological failures behind the law’s exchanges, didn’t explain how they would be fixed—and didn’t say who would be held to account for failing to get the implementation right.
In fact, when asked by one Congressman whether the President himself was “ultimately responsible” for the healthcare.gov fiasco, Sebelius responded, “Whatever.”
It’s not the first time Secretary Sebelius has shown such insouciance. “No one is getting fired” over the exchanges’ myriad problems, she claimed last Thursday. She went on to say that “the majority of people calling for me to resign…are people I don’t work for.” This from a public servant receiving a salary of nearly $200,000 per year funded by all federal taxpayers!
The President himself is also in denial about the train wreck unfolding before him. Hours after Sebelius’ testimony, the President pooh-poohed the news that millions of Americans will need to shop for new health insurance after losing their current coverage due to Obamacare. In a speech in Boston, the President tried to blame insurance companies for cancelling policies—due to requirements his administration put into place. In other words, “Nothing to see here. Move it along.”
The President also claimed that individuals losing their current plan will get “a better deal.” However, a recent Heritage Foundation study found that the law will raise premiums in the exchanges in 45 states, in some cases causing rates to more than double. So much for the promise of “bending the cost curve down.”
It’s worth pondering why the left—from President Obama on down—seems unwilling to admit any problem with the law, either in its policy or in its implementation. When Nancy Pelosi famously said Congress had to pass the bill so that we could find out what’s in it, she wasn’t just admitting that she and her colleagues hadn’t read the bill they voted on. She was also implying that—unlike the “visionary” leaders of the left—most Americans simply couldn’t appreciate the true wonder and beauty of Obamacare until we experienced it.
It’s that type of patronizing liberalism—don’t worry about a thing, we know what’s best for you—that led people like Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to claim three years ago that Obamacare would “become more and more popular” once the law passed. It’s what led President Obama to tell Charlie Rose last year that his biggest fault was not any errant decision on policy, but rather failing to “tell a story” to the American people.
Yet the stories of the past month demonstrate a wholesale failure of the entire Obamacare scheme. It’s not just the technology behind the exchanges—although that is a mess. It’s also the people losing their coverage, and the people who won’t be able to afford new policies.
Obamacare is a 2,700-page reminder of Reagan’s famous dictum that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” When an entire law is based on those nine words, and isn’t working in the least, the only rational move is to stop the law. Alternatively, one could simply go full Monty Python.
In the Holy Grail, the knight meets an ignominious end. His arms and legs severed, he continues to howl into the wind: “I’m invincible!” The knight’s triumphalist rhetoric has echoed through the Obama administration in recent days. But for both the limbless knight and Obamacare, the facts speak otherwise.
- Chris Jacobs is a senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies.
Originally appeared in The National Interest