Wait Until the American People See the Consequences

by Alexander Benard

The Wall Street Journal features an appropriately timed article this morning that describes the various technical challenges facing Obamacare as it prepares for its roll-out tomorrow. These challenges point towards a strategy that would allow the GOP to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with respect to the looming government shutdown.

Specifically, this morning House Republicans should announce that, in the interests of avoiding a government shutdown, they will pass legislation funding the government through mid-December without attaching a one-year delay in implementing Obamacare. However, at the same time they should state very clearly, and very forcefully, that this decision will be subject to careful monitoring of the Obamacare roll-out over the coming weeks and months. And if during that time House Republicans determine that Obamacare is in fact not yet ready for primetime, then they will insist on the one-year delay as part of the compromise over raising the debt ceiling — a compromise that will have to occur by October 17.

The idea here is that the GOP will actually be in a much stronger position to insist on a delay in the implementation of Obamacare after the exchanges get up and running. At that point, concerns around technical glitches and rising premiums for many Americans will no longer be theoretical; they will be on plain display for all to see. And the GOP would be able to use these glitches and rising premiums to badger Democrats and make the point, over and over again, that Obamacare simply is not ready for implementation. And it would be able to do this in the wake of mounting public awareness of Obamacare’s deficiencies.

The GOP would have to spend the next few weeks aggressively seeking out and highlighting these glitches, and as many examples of rising premiums as possible. Ideally, it would establish a system that would make it easy for health-exchange users to register such glitches and rising premiums with the GOP, as well as any other complaints, and perhaps even a simple site publicly listing the most egregious examples of Obamacare unreadiness.

In the face of all this evidence and mounting public pressure, many Democrats will have a far more difficult time opposing a delay in the implementation of Obamacare.  

The president might still end up vetoing a bill that raises the debt ceiling but also delays the implementation of Obamacare by one year, but if he does so the political consequences for him will be quite severe. He will shoulder the blame for a default on U.S. debt, and he will have done so purely to prevent a one-year delay of Obamacare, whose implementation most Americans will by then have seen with their own eyes to have been premature. 

As a practical matter, it is worth noting that even if the insurance exchanges launch tomorrow, none of the new insurance plans will actually go into effect until January 1. So delaying implementation in two or three weeks, rather than right now, would not result in any administrative challenges around having to unenroll people from insurance plans for which they have just signed up.

— Alexander Benard is an attorney and regular political commentator.