Based on the media coverage of health-care reform, one might think that Obamacare is inevitable. National Review Online wanted a second opinion, so we consulted some of our health-care experts to ask: Can Obamacare be beaten, and how can we beat it?
JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
Obamacare can, and should, be beaten. Only one thing has changed since August: President Obama’s speech to Congress turned a deaf ear to the American people and showed he thinks he can pass his agenda through sheer force of will. So far, the Democrats believe him. But that’s not how American politics works.
Individual Republican senators or representatives need to offer a politically viable and clearly contrasting counterproposal: a “small bill” that doesn’t affect employer-provided insurance in the least. Such a one-page small-bill proposal has been endorsed by The Weekly Standard, praised on Fox Business News, and highlighted by the New York Times. Obamacare is losing in the polls, despite running unopposed. Republicans need to give it a “small bill” to run against — drawing American voters toward the party’s ideas.
In addition, we need to emphasize this
: 90 percent of Americans are insured, according to the Census, and 95 percent are either insured or make more money than most American families. Most Americans are happy with their insurance and their health care.
Here’s how things would change: Most Americans’ insurance premiums would rise — substantially — as Obamacare would let people wait until they need insurance to sign up for it, leaving others to pay the bill. Obamacare would be paid for by increasing Americans’ taxes, decreasing Americans’ Medicare benefits, and/or leaving America’s children a far greater inheritance of debt. And employers would quickly realize it’s much cheaper to choose the “public option” for their employees, funneling them into the government-run plan, than to continue offering private insurance.
– Jeffrey H. Anderson is a senior fellow in health-care studies at the Pacific Research Institute and was the senior speechwriter for Secretary Mike Leavitt at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during Pres. George W. Bush’s second term.
Many believe Obamacare is invincible given Washington’s current partisan makeup. From a political perspective, it’s “too big to fail.”
Politics trumps all, according to this view. It’s the president’s signature first-year initiative. He and the Democratic leadership also signaled it’s a test of their political virility. “Losing” is the only option off the table, so the White House possesses broad negotiating range.
Even Harry Reid’s public-option gambit fits with this “just pass something” three-dimensional chess game. Force a vote on the issue (the full Senate will strip it out) and use that as further leverage to bring liberals on board to a bill without the government-run plan.
Can you stop a partisan steamroller intent on winning at any cost and armed with large majorities in the House and Senate? Yes you can!
Some Democratic lawmakers’ instincts for personal political survival may doom Obamacare. The White House failed to grasp the reality that initial support for the goals of health care would wilt when the public focused on specifics, like costs and affordability. Ironically, the fatal blow was a self-inflicted wound caused by the president’s approach to Congress.
The White House made a huge strategic blunder at the beginning of the year. The president should have insisted on bringing Republicans on board at any cost. Some say that was impossible. I disagree.
True, gaining GOP support required scaling back White House ambitions. But focusing on fixing problems, not overhauling the system, could have attracted Republican votes. He should have used his political capital to fight the Left, not the GOP. Yet hubris, inexperience, and his true partisan instincts prevailed.
Now three or four Democratic senators are forced to choose between fatally damaging their own reelection hopes and compensating for the president’s errors in judgment. In the end, the only thing really “too big to fail” may be these lawmakers’ personal electoral ambitions.
– Gary Andres is vice chairman of research and policy at the Dutko Group Companies and a frequent NRO contributor.