BYRON YORK: GOP flinches at Obamacare plan devised by Sens. Ted Cruz, Mike Lee. I don’t think things are as disorganized as they seem. I see it this way: (1) Effort to defund — if it succeeds, it’s a win. If it doesn’t, it’s forced a lot of vulnerable Dems to vote in favor of ObamaCare just before it goes into effect: (2) ObamaCare goes into effect, producing a train wreck of increased premiums, implementation snafus; (3) In 2014, GOP can say if you want this repealed, you’ve got to give us both houses of Congress — and, in 2016, the White House.
Now that (as expected) the Democrat-controlled Senate has removed the defunding language from the continuing resolution to fund the government, it appears that the House is shifting to the preferred Establishment GOP strategy of delay. Ed Morrissey reports:
The House will send a continuing resolution to the Senate sometime today, but not the clean CR that the Senate sent to the House. Instead, Speaker John Boehner and the Republican caucus plan to approve a new stopgap funding measure that includes a one-year delay in the ObamaCare individual mandate, exchanges, and subsidies, as well as a repeal of an unpopular tax on medical devices:
If this is the best we can do, will it help us or hurt us?
This piece argues that delay is a “win/win” for Republicans:
If the exchanges did open but the individual mandate was postponed, experts say those likely to skip buying insurance are the young and the healthy – just the people most needed to broaden the risk pool and keep insurance rates low. Surging rates would antagonize the public. So would the absence of income-based subsidies. And if the exchanges did not open at all, after laying groundwork for big changes for the last three years, insurers and consumers would be left scrambling.
“You could think about an orderly transition back, but just stopping it would be chaotic,” says Gary Claxton, director of the Health Care Marketplace Project at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Among his questions: Would the companies have to resume underwriting, charge higher rates to sick people, and deny coverage to some? And with many high-risk pools gone in preparation for the big shift, where would those people get insurance? He also notes that if insurers lost money as a result of the sudden full stop, the federal government would be on the hook to make up much of the loss, as it was the case with the Medicare drug program.
From a political semantics standpoint, says Robert Blendon, a health policy expert at Harvard, “defunding sounds awful. It sounds like you’re taking money away from sick people.” A one-year delay seems more benign, he says, but “could have a very negative long-term effect on the viability of the law.” That makes defund and delay a win-win for Republicans, and a test of backbone for Democrats.
I am skeptical — yet admittedly torn. The above piece sets forth the potential advantages of a delay strategy. There is another advantage: every day without ObamaCare is another day of freedom, and another day in which we have staved off the fundamental restructuring of the government’s relationship to the individual that it represents.
I think, though, there are some serious potential disadvantages. Delay gives Democrats a way to blame the GOP for the inevitable catastrophe that ObamaCare represents. If we simply oppose ObamaCare, try to defund it entirely, and our efforts fail, then the responsibility for the inevitable disaster falls squarely on Obama and on Democratic Senators. If we delay, Obama can argue we have thrown off original plans, throwing everything out of kilter. Ironically, we would also probably be increasing the chance of successful implementation, as delay of any portion or all of it gives Democrats a year to iron out the current implementation snafus. That’s why even some Democrats have sought a delay, and Obama might be just fine with it. This way, we get the worst of both worlds: we take some form of responsibility for how it turns out, while increasing the chances that it will turn out to be less disastrous than expected.
And it may help keep the disaster of implementation from being a huge issue in 2014.
Reader Kevin M made this comment about the defunding effort, but I think it is perhaps more aptly describes the delay effort:
Obamacare cannot succeed. We know that. It will crash and burn by the middle of next year and take the Democrats with it. The ONLY thing that will save them is if they (and PRAVDA) can blame the Republicans for the failure.
And we’re putting our fingerprints all over the murder weapon.
That seems right to me. But I could be wrong.
The collective wisdom of my readership far exceeds my individual wisdom. I am interested in your thoughts.