It’s not exactly a Fox News alert to say Republicans will do their best to put a nail in Obamacare. But what if I told you a lot of Democrats will help them swing the hammer? Is that newsworthy enough for you?
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Well, count on it. In fact, crazy as it seems, I’m now betting on it. What’s got me musing about Obamacare’s potential undoing isn’t only the awful midterms for Democrats and how the health-care law weighed on them like an anvil, but the fact things appear to be getting worse for the law. And these guys want out of it!
Not only is the Supreme Court set to review a key centerpiece of the Affordable Care Act, but millions of Americans are finding out for themselves, that the “affordable” claim is just an act. Specifically, the high court will decide whether the White House improperly provided tax credits to consumers through federal exchanges.
If the court rules the administration went too far, one of the signature law’s most potent positives – providing affordable health care to lower-income Americans – would go away. That could mean one of Obamacare’s biggest attractions goes away as well, if not, potentially, the law itself.
And that’s just the Supreme Court. Republicans, of course, have made no secret of the aim, at the very least, to dismantle some of the law’s more onerous and controversial provisions, including the medical device tax. Even many Democrats agree on that one. But the problem is replacing the revenue from that device tax somewhere else. Let’s just say, easier said than done.
Maybe all this is why enrollment figures haven’t been exactly “wow-ing.” Federal regulators are now predicting fewer Americans will be enrolling in Affordable Care Act Exchanges through next year…a lot fewer. More like 9 million Americans, maybe 9.9 million tops, versus CBO predictions of up to 13 million.
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Put another way, enrollment figures are off about 30% from government estimates. That means if they hold, CBO assumptions of 24 million enrollees by 2016 will likely be closer to 16.5 million, and estimates of 25 million by 2017, now more like 17.5 million.
Keep in mind I haven’t even addressed black swan events, such as an adverse court decision that could call into question the very constitutionality of these various financing provisions, to say nothing of their fairness.
Then there’s the simple polling reality that Americans don’t like this thing, and increasingly less so with each and every damning headline. The examples of Americans facing higher premiums, and younger signees, eye-popping deductibles are now legendary, and for Democrats, in particular, problematic. Why would they continue to support something that falls apart, piece-by-piece. You can’t tell me that any Democrat up in 2016 isn’t looking very closely at what happened to Obamacare backers in 2014.
That’s why I suspect many in the Senate will join Republicans as part of a grand, “let’s re-do this” coalition. Already, Pennsylvania Democratic Senator Bob Casey has told me the law needs a “serious reexamination.” He’s not alone, and he won’t be alone. And apparently tinkering won’t do as part of that reexamination. Many Democrats are running as far away from Obamacare’s problems as they are President Obama himself.
Much of that has to do with the simple fact the law’s benefits are proving illusory to the very Democratic base the party’s been trying to win over. Increasingly, they’re frustrated, and as the enrollment figures show, they’re not signing up. Their tax credits are in question, and even the benefits of the coverage they supposedly get with those credits are in question as well.
With likely 55 Republicans holding the Senate, you’re only talking five more swing members to help kill key components of the legislation, and only 12 more votes to override a presidential veto. It’s happened before. Ronald Reagan famously used conservative Southern or “boll weevil” Democrats to build a powerful bipartisan coalition for increased defense spending and substantial tax cutting. Many had tired of their party’s drift into inexcusable spending excesses that appeared to give Democrats little political bang for the buck.
President George Bush built on similar coalitions ahead of, and after, calling on Congress to support expanding the war in Afghanistan into Iraq. Although many Democrats would later say they regretted that vote, arguing the administration had lied to them, the fact was they were all privy to the same intelligence, and all part of the same bipartisan push to snuff out terror. That’s what powerful coalitions do – they send a powerful message – even if only in the moment. If you think about it, it’s really just that moment that counts, isn’t it?
We can argue the wisdom of these votes, but we cannot argue the bipartisan nature of these votes – as much a product of political expediency as they were foreign policy necessity. What’s more, they went against popular wisdom at the time – that neither party would nudge to the other – UNLESS there was compelling evidence to do so.
The health-care law’s ongoing problems are providing more than enough examples that this thing isn’t ending up as it was sold. And now we know the chief architect of the law itself knew it wouldn’t when it was being crafted years ago, which confirms the cynicism is well-laced.
In a tape that’s been making the rounds for the last few weeks, Jonathan Gruber acknowledges that the law itself was designed that way – it was deliberately made confusing and vague. “This bill was written in a tortured way to make sure the CBO did not score the mandate as taxes,” Gruber recounted. “If CBO scored the mandate as taxes, the bill dies. Okay, so it’s written to do that.”
Gruber goes on to say that “lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical for the thing to pass.”
That isn’t only a damning revelation. It could very well be Obamacare’s smoking gun. It would show Nancy Pelosi knew exactly what was in it, well before she and Democrats voted in favor of it. They all knew its problems, but perhaps thought they would pass. Now, post an awful midterm election for them, they’re discovering the law’s health-care chickens are coming home to roost.
No wonder they’re still scared. No wonder they’re ready to jump. It’s not the law that’s sickening them. It’s the prospect of getting defeated in two years, because they never admitted, they got it wrong…very wrong.