Politics & Policy

The GOP Should Be Obamacare’s Death Panel

(Photo Illustration: NRO)
With Obamacare in the midst of a meltdown, Republicans can end the program before Democrats make it bigger and more intrusive.

When the New York Times tells you Obamacare is “ailing” and must change to survive, rest assured that the law is in serious trouble.

Then again, people who read the New York Times might be under the impression that the only way to fix a collapsing state-run program is to pass another, more intrusive state-run program — in this case, a “public option.”

In truth, it was probably something of a shock to most Times readers that the Affordable Care Act has struggled at all. For years, left-wing punditry has been churning out prodigious quantities of Obamacare fanfic, praising and hailing every ACA stumble as another unrealized measure of success. They made this denial loop possible by reframing Obamacare’s expectations and reimagining its purpose.

Here’s something worth remembering: If we evaluate Obamacare using the parameters Democrats themselves laid out when campaigning and passing the historically partisan reform, we have no choice but to view it as a debacle.

Of course, there are the obvious instances of outright falsehoods. Take Obama’s “If you like your health-care plan, you can keep it” assertion. Millions of Americans have been forced off their insurance plans, no matter how much they liked them.

The president also assured Americans that Obamacare would lower premiums for the typical family by up to $2,500 a year. Instead, average premiums were expected to rise to $3,700 by this year. Colorado, for instance, expects health insurance rates to jump 20 percent on average for individual buyers next year alone. All those explanations, skewed charts, and pretend projections were wrong.

Obama also pledged that once state marketplaces “have fully implemented, you’re going to be able to buy insurance through a pool so that you can get the same good rates as a group that if you’re an employee at a big company you can get right now — which means your premiums will go down.” They haven’t. Not only have rates risen but there has been an exodus of insurance providers, who are unable to compete even in these contrived and subsidized exchanges. Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a study in which it estimates 974 counties across the country will only feature a single insurer on Obamacare exchanges in 2017. In 2016, it was 225. Five states are likely to have only one Obamacare insurer in all counties. Rather than create competition, this experiment has only strengthened in-state insurance cartels.

Obama promised that Obamacare wouldn’t add a penny to the deficit and would cost less than a trillion dollars (remember the 10 years taxation for the eight years of ACA?). Meanwhile, Obama has spent billions of health-care dollars — without any congressional authority — to bail out his struggling program.

Perhaps the only real achievement Obama and his allies can dependably point to is the increase in insured Americans. But when we consider that the government penalizes you for failing to buy insurance, it’s hardly a surprise. It’s tantamount to bragging about increasing military recruitment numbers after passing a draft. And Democrats do seem perversely satisfied with idea of using state force as a marketing tool.

Obamacare was ostensibly about controlling greedy insurance companies (who wrote most of the cronyistic bill in the first place) and “bending the cost curve.” In reality, Democrats have used Obamacare as a tool for social engineering and expanding the welfare state. As Obamacare falls apart, Democrats now turn to the “public option” — a state-run program — because incrementalism is what they always do.

The public option is not new. Six years ago, before the Democratic party had fully completed its hard-left turn, its moderates rejected the “public option.” One of the prevailing myths of the Obamacare battle was that the president had attempted to negotiate with the Republican party in good faith. Every concession that was offered was meant to entice moderate Democrats to vote for the bill — because every last one of them was needed to pass it.

In a sycophantic interview with New York magazine, Obama argues that moderate Dems who supported his bill were being brave. Hardly. At the time, red-state Democrats were sold on the idea of Obamacare’s becoming popular once it passed. Yet, despite repeated assurances from politicians and pundits, Obamacare is still just as unpopular in polls. By passing a national reform without any buy-in from half the country, Democrats destroyed their majority and made it impossible to move any meaningful domestic legislation for the rest of Obama’s presidency.

#related#Liberals like to mock Republicans for being obsessed with overturning Obamacare. Now that it’s useful, though, be prepared for lots of conversations about the future of the bill; about GOP obstructionism; about how conservatives hate sick women and children, etc. But if Republicans capitulate and help “fix” Obamacare, through either another taxpayer-funded insurance bailout or a “public option,” they will become co-owners of a disaster.

Oregon senator Jeff Merkley introduced a Senate resolution for the “public option,” claiming it “is critical to bringing more competition and accountability to the insurance market.” Never in the history of mankind has a state-run entity in a private marketplace created more competitiveness or accountability. This is a debate conservatives should welcome, because we might be talking beauty queens and a billionaire’s 20-year-old tax return today, but after the election the GOP has a chance to effectively finish off Obamacare. And it should take it.

David Harsanyi — David Harsanyi is a senior editor of the Federalist and the author of First Freedom: A Ride through America’s Enduring History with the Gun, From the Revolution to Today

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