The cloud of Obamacare has a faint silver lining. Both the substance of the bill and the way it was passed have boosted the electoral prospects for right-leaning candidates in November. That’s a critical first step toward repealing the most consequential expansion of government’s role in our daily lives in many decades.
Let’s be clear, however: To repeal or even defang Obamacare will require a combination of skill, luck, and the right political environment. And it will require conservative reformers in both parties (yes, both parties — the only bipartisanship on display this past year, it is worth recalling, has been bipartisan opposition to Obamacare). It’s doable, but it won’t be easy.
As long as President Obama is in the White House, his veto pen can stop any reform bill. A veto override requires two-thirds supermajorities in both House and Senate — a wholly unrealistic prospect unless Republicans make unprecedented electoral gains and scores of politically queasy moderate Democrats openly rebel against their party leaders.
But each day seems to bring news that should make moderates queasier and liberals less cocky. Less than a week after passage of the bill, major U.S. companies like AT&T, Caterpillar, and John Deere announced billions of dollars in writedowns to account for the new law’s financial impact. And thousands of Americans eager to sign up for their “free health coverage” learned they’d have to wait four years before Washington would start delivering on that promise.
More negative news is on the way. A long list of new tax burdens and regulations will create additional unintended consequences. The CEO of Medtronic Inc., for example, believes the new 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices will force his firm to eliminate a thousand jobs. The CFO of Massachusetts-based Zoll Medical Corp. warns that his company may have to relocate 650 Bay State jobs overseas.
This fall, millions of seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans will receive notices of benefit cutbacks or even the termination of their plans, thanks to Obamacare’s $200-billion cuts in the popular program.
With these developments looming on the horizon, President Obama and his Hill allies hope to focus attention elsewhere: on jobs and the economy. If Republicans, the conservative grassroots, and the media become preoccupied with other concerns, they hope, the voters will soon calm down.
Center-right America should not let itself be distracted.
A coalition of Republicans and a few courageous Democrats can jettison Obamacare if they gain the trust of voters on health-policy issues. That’s already starting.