Could Conservatives Help Obamacare Implementation Work?

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act, up to and including President Obama, have been at pains to point out to anyone who'd listen that as with any large and complex piece of legislation, implementation is going to be imperfect. There are going to be hiccups. Hurdles. Stumbles. Stops and starts, ups and downs, potholes and roadblocks and detours. They've been saying it because it's true, because they want to prepare the media and the public, and because they know that conservatives will be squawking loudly every time it becomes apparent that some feature of the law needs to be adjusted, trying to convince everyone that even the most minor of difficulties is proof the law should never have been enacted in the first place.

But let me make a counter-intuitive suggestion: Perhaps all the inevitable overblown carping from the right will prove to be a good thing, making the law work better in the long run. Not because the conservatives' motives aren't bad (they are), and separate from the contemptible efforts to actively sabotage the law's implementation. What I'm talking about is the effort by Republican members of Congress and conservative media figures to locate and publicize everything about Obamacare that isn't going right. They could become a tireless team of Obamacare ombudsmen, forcing improvements to the law to happen faster than they otherwise would have by locating and publicizing what needs to be addressed. If there's a pilot program that isn't working out or a feature of the exchanges that isn't operating properly, the likes of Darrell Issa and Sean Hannity are going to be on the case.

They could have a positive impact even on things they never notice. I'm sure the people who work in the Department of Health and Human Services, both career bureaucrats and political appointees alike, are keenly aware that their work on ACA implementation will be released into a charged political atmosphere, and if they screw up or do their jobs in a half-assed way, there's a chance the whole world will find out about it. Nobody is going to want to have their department featured on Fox News, which could prove an incentive to work hard and make sure every T is crossed and I is dotted.

Okay, so the Conservative Obamacare Ombudsman Project does depend on them drawing attention to not just what's most embarrassing or easily demagogued but the difficulties that are meaningful and can be fixed. And some fixes may require legislation, which would depend on some Republicans making the mental leap required to vote for a bill that would solve an actual problem, which is something many of them (in the House, anyway) have no experience with and might not be quite able to wrap their heads around. But stranger things have happened.

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