This March will mark three years since Obamacare became law, and it still has not had any serious effect on most Americans' lives. That's the way President Obama and the law's Democratic authors planned it; they conveniently pushed the dislocations and unhappy consequences of national health care well past their re-election campaigns.
But Obamacare will be here soon, with an Oct. 1, 2013, start of enrollment in insurance exchanges and a Jan. 1, 2014, deadline for full implementation. The political results could be deeply painful for Democrats.
During the campaign for Obamacare, President Obama pledged repeatedly that his health care scheme would not touch the vast majority of Americans who are satisfied with their coverage. "No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people," Obama said in June 2009. "If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."
If anyone believed that then, they probably don't believe it now. In practice, Obamacare will mean the loss of employer-based health insurance for many people; big increases in premiums for others; changes on the job for still others; and a bureaucratic nightmare for many more. Add to that the involvement of the Internal Revenue Service, which will act as Obamacare's enforcer -- all Americans will have to prove to the IRS that they have "qualified" coverage -- and it's likely Obamacare will have a rocky and unpopular start.
Over the past months there has been scattered press coverage of coming problems. That is likely to increase in 2013. There will be more stories with headlines like this, from Bloomberg News last week: "Aetna CEO Sees Obama Health Law Doubling Some Premiums."
And this, from the Associated Press: "Surprise: New Insurance Fee In Health Overhaul Law."
And this, from the Wall Street Journal: "Health-Care Law Spurs a Shift to Part-Time Workers."
Real-world experience might even spark some rethinking of Obamacare's premises. For example, the president and his Democratic allies promised Obamacare will cut the deficit. That's almost certainly not true, although many in the press repeated it faithfully. Now, with Obamacare near, there are hints of a reassessment.