LIBERAL COLUMN: Sebelius’ resignation not an acknowledgment of ACA failure

BY JOSH MERLO
Liberal Columnist

Earlier this week, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, resigned from her office.

The five-year office-holder is believed to have done so due to the problems with the rollout of the titular legislative piece of the Obama administration. Political pundits, of course, have interpreted this move as a sign of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) upcoming failure.

“Sebelius is the first rat to jump from a burning ship,” they will tell you. Is this true? Does the resignation of the head of one of the department most connected with the ACA truly mean that said healthcare law is doomed to fail?

The simple answer is obvious: “No, absolutely not.”

The more complex answer is as follows: Sebelius resigned because of political pressure, not an overriding systemic flaw in the ACA. The aftermath of the problematic rollout of the healthcare.gov website demanded a scapegoat. Sebelius, being the bureaucrat whose department is most directly linked with the website’s success, was a convenient fall-man.

Keep in mind there is a rather significant election approaching in 2014. The Democrats will be fighting to retain their majority in the Senate and regain a majority in the House. To do so, their campaigns will largely be focused on rebutting the charges of their Republican counterparts; the charges will be, without a doubt, accusations of support for the new healthcare law. By Sebelius resigning, the Democrats now can point at a single individual’s incompetence as the reason for the ACA’s early woes.

Another point to be kept in mind – politics is a long-term activity that has the added requirement of pleasing the masses in the short term. To properly judge any presidency, for instance, historians will tell those interested that a period of time is necessary. Why? Because the actual effects of what that man did in office do not become fully evident until long after he steps down or is voted out.

In the same way, the ACA will not and cannot be judged a success or failure for many years. Until the bill is fully implemented, until all its provisions are active, how can it be accurately evaluated? Even once these conditions are satisfied, how can the ACA’s distal effects be evaluated?

To all those who are quick to criticize the healthcare law, remember this: It is currently impossible to know its results. Therefore, to say Sebelius’s resignation is a sign of impending death for the law is foolish.

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