There a point at which all the Obamacare “fixes” transform the president’s health-care plan into something it never was intended to be. Maybe we are already there. Consider that the employer mandate is not in effect (for at least a year), the verification procedures for subsidies are shaky at best, there is a subset of perhaps a few million people who will be allowed to keep their non-exchange insurance plans and (thanks to Supreme Court Justice John Roberts) some states will expanded Medicaid and some won’t.
As a preliminary matter, it is shocking that none of the modifications is embodied in a duly passed law. The extra-constitutional delays, fixes and exceptions make a mockery of our political system and set a precedent Republican presidents will gladly embrace. (You can imagine protectors of executive power like former vice president Dick Cheney watching in amazement as the administration makes up and modifies laws unilaterally.) Really, if Democrats in the House and Senate think the president can do all this, why bother running and holding office?
As to the changes themselves, Democrats and Republicans are undeterred by the president’s administrative “fix.” This in and of itself demonstrates how far Democrats are willing to go to distance themselves from the sinking ship.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) spokesman put out a statement Thursday explaining that the House fix will be broader than the president’s. “The Keep Your Health Plan Act aims to help Americans keep their health care plan and give their neighbors a chance to buy the same plans rather than being forced to buy their insurance from healthcare.gov. In other words, the 2013 plans currently available would be available to everyone who wants a more affordable plan that suits their needs.” Not only does this provide “legal certainty,” but it further undermines the exchanges and the mandate that requires Obama-approved gold-plated plans. It does this by introducing the possibility that millions of people will choose those “crappy” plans the president sneered at (high deductible, low cost and appropriate for young and healthy people). It does more than grandfather existing plans — it would invite the whole neighborhood into them.
Certainly the president and Dems won’t go for it, but it is a fine bargaining move. Senate Democrats feel compelled to offer their own fix, and they can go to conference if need be. The president, after all said he wants to work with Dems and R’s, so he could come join them. Republicans could make all sorts of proposals, maybe even delaying the mandate while all this gets unscrambled. Certainly, a warning label on HealthCare.gov about potential unsecured information can be on the list.
Sure, Republicans are having a field day, but who can blame them? For months and years they were told the law is inviolate and they had to accept it as the law of the land. That seems not to be the case as the president seeks to shape-shift his way through the statute. More to the point, Republicans understood the president’s plan (“It’s complicated!”) better than he. Other things they have figured out include the law’s inability to bend the cost curve and its unaffordability for many of the people the president said he would help. He might listen to them for a change on these and other items, such as the medical-device tax and the rationing board called the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
The plethora of changes and the president’s realization that information technology procurement may be beyond the government’s competency reaffirm the conservatives’ critique all along: Too expensive, too unwieldy, too intrusive. Now Republicans should come forward with some easy-to-implement and modest changes to show Americans what sensible reform is available if they could only get rid of a plan even the liberal savior Obama cannot operate.