July 17, 2013

As Greg noted earlier this morning, House Republicans are — again—holding a series of votes meant to chip away at the Affordable Care Act. By focusing on the employer mandate — recently delayed by the Obama administration—the votes are meant to put Democrats in a bind. The Washington Examiner explains:

A vote in support of the employer mandate delay could be perceived as admitting the president’s health care plan is flawed. Democrats who vote no will be accused by Republicans of going against the president’s wishes.

Likewise, Democrats who vote for the employer mandate delay but reject a delay for individuals will be accused by Republicans as favoring big businesses over ordinary working Americans.

None of these will pass, obviously, but they are meant to emphasize the extent to which Republicans are absolutely committed to ending the president’s health care law.

The problem for Republicans is that this is happening on the same day it was announced — by New York regulators — that the Affordable Care Act has reduced premiums in the state’s individual health care market. The New York Times reports that premiums are expected to 50 percent lower than what is currently available.

For the 17,000 New Yorkers who buy insurance on their own — the large majority receive through their employers, and 2.6 million are uninsured  —this is a huge decline, from $1,000 a month for coverage, to as little as $308 or lower, when subsidies are included. Indeed, the cost of insurance on the individual market is so low that regulators expect a huge increase in the number of people who purchase insurance on their own — 615,000 people, three-quarters of whom will be eligible for subsidies.

If this happens as projected, it will stand as a huge gain for ordinary New Yorkers. For those paying high premiums, they’ll have better insurance — thanks to regulations contained in Obamacare — with less money out of their pockets. And for those without insurance in the first place, they’ll now have access to a range of affordable policies.

Here’s why it’s important to juxtapose this with today’s vote in the House. As the law comes online in the next five months, untold numbers of uninsured Americans will either receive benefits through Medicaid, or they’ll begin to enter the exchanges, receive subsidies, and purchase health insurance. In short order, the Affordable Care Act will have created a constituency for itself — the millions of voters who receive benefits as a result of the law. It will yield countless politicians — at all levels of government — who will want to capitalize on this constituency by working to implement it as best as possible. And this isn’t just true for blue states — you’ll see a similar dynamic in red states, where exchanges will also exist.

It’s Republicans who are caught in a bind. Soon, they’ll either have to accommodate the law in order to satisfy their constituents, or continue their quest for repeal, and in the process, further harm their political standing.

Jamelle Bouie is a staff writer at The American Prospect, where he writes a blog.