The major news networks have discovered what conservatives figured out a long time ago: You don’t get to keep your insurance plan – that is, if it is not Obamacare-compliant, if your employer has been forced to alter or drop his plans and/or if you are priced out of the individual market, as many people are discovering they are. This was entirely foreseeable and indeed baked into the cake, if you will. As soon as the administration decided that gold-plated insurance — not low-cost and high-deductible catastrophic coverage — was to be the norm, those people who had the latter were not going to get to keep the plan they liked.
The president surely knew what the law required and so should have these same media outlets, as well as pundits of all political stripes. The “surprise” comes to those who weren’t paying attention to conservatives’ complaints or who were running interference for the administration.
It is not surprising then that Republicans leaders tore into the White House today. From House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.):
Now, we know this morning that the President knew these letters were coming. This is really troubling, I believe, for all of the American people. If the President knew these letters were coming and still indicated you could keep your healt-care plan if you liked it, that raises some serious questions about the sales job of Obamacare. That’s why we’re all saying that we shouldn’t allow the American people to be impacted like this because millions of Americans are going to receive letters like this over the next couple of weeks in the mail. No Web site fix, no one individual can resolve the problems that my constituent Bruno Gora is having or the millions of people who now are being told that the health care plan that they like, regardless of whether the administration thinks they should like it, that they can no longer have it.
And Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from the floor of the Senate declared: “Unsurprisingly, just 12 percent of Americans think the rollout has gone well. That’s less than the 14 percent of Americans who believe in Bigfoot. Those who’ve succeeded in actually enrolling in a plan are vastly outnumbered by those who’ve lost plans. And the real tragedy here is that many who’ve succeeded are finding out the product is worse than the Web site.” He added:
The larger problem is Obamacare itself. The larger problem is what the few people who actually have signed up for coverage have discovered about this law. The larger problem is how Obamacare is hurting people out there. It’s about college graduates and middle-class families getting hit with massive premium increases they can’t afford. It’s about workers seeing their hours cut and their paychecks shrink because of this law. It’s about the millions of Americans who will lose their current health coverage because of Obamacare — despite the president’s promises. According to news reports, the Obama administration knew for at least three years that millions of Americans would not be able to keep their health coverage. The President’s press secretary basically admitted yesterday that Americans would lose coverage, too. Remember, this is the same President who said — and I’m quoting — “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.” This is just one of the many reasons Americans feel betrayed.
Now aside from decrying the president’s ineptness and broken promises and cataloging the categories of people harmed by Obamacare, what can the GOP do?
First, they should force Democrats to take hard votes – let them vote to refuse to delay Obamacare, to refuse to offer protection to those people whose prior healthcare insurance was cheaper and to refuse to address people who may have a gap in coverage. If ever the GOP had the chance to be on the side of the “little guy” against Big Government, this is it.
Second, Republican governors, especially those who declined to expand Medicaid, are uniquely positioned to explain why Medicaid should be reformed and then block-granted. They can champion the cause of the working poor and the unemployed by offering a clear choice to the feds: Give them flexibility to manage their Medicaid programs and they will use cost savings to improve care and/or extend coverage. And for those frustrated customers who couldn’t get onto HealthCare.gov and who have preexisting conditions, governors should come up with their own high-risk pools. In other words, set up a workable, state-based program that people will prefer over Obamacare.
Obamacare is an opportunity for Republicans not simply to excoriate the liberal welfare state, but to put themselves on the side of the lower- and middle-income Americans most hurt by the Democratic fiasco. A chance like this doesn’t come along in every Congress, or with every president.