Government loves deadlines. Creating them must give someone a sense of efficiency — at least until they’re ignored. Spending cuts finally kicked in on March 1. Taxes are due April 15. Under the Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is officially known, deadlines for creating health insurance exchanges crash like waves on a beach. States had until Dec. 15 to announce their own exchange; regulators were supposed to certify those plans by Jan. 1. When just 17 states opted to run their own pools, the government set a new Feb. 15 deadline to join a federal “partnership” overseeing the program.
Like the word “deadline,” “partnership” means different things to different people. In nature, bald eagles mate for life, often building and expanding the same nest for decades. The partnership between the elephant and dung beetle is much less majestic. And in any partnership between states and the federal government, we know who plays the elephant — and who’s left to pick through what it leaves behind.