Critical Condition

Responsible Resistance to Obamacare: Has Mitch Daniels Shown the Way?

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Indiana governor Mitch Daniels offers up a dilemma to U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius: If she wants his co-operation (and that of 20 other governors), she’ll need to twist and turn Obamacare inside out to get it.

My friend Tevi Troy cheers Daniels’s approach, noting that if the president had considered bipartisan reform he might have avoided the hostile backlash that Obamacare has created. But he didn’t. Surely it can’t be Governor Daniels’s responsibility to show the president how to find the way to real health-care reform, an approach that threatens the success of the still-monumental task of repealing Obamacare.

Don’t get me wrong: Governor Daniels issues a full-throated call for consumers, rather than bureaucrats, to decide which health insurance they choose. Daniels knows whereof he speaks: By offering policies linked with Health Savings Accounts to government workers, Indiana trimmed public-sector health costs by 11 percent, according to a previous op-ed in the same newspaper by Governor Daniels.

Daniels knows that Obamacare expects states to do its dirty work. If states boycott Obamacare, forcing Secretary Sebelius’s Obamacrats to set up Health Benefits Exchanges on their own, the results will be as pathetic as the high-risk pools that rolled out in 2010. But this simply invites the question: Why is Governor Daniels (or Governor Perry of Texas, another signer of the letter) extending the hand of peace to Secretary Sebelius — especially now, when Obamacare has been mortally wounded in the courts and the U.S. House of Representatives?

To be sure, Daniels has to manage things as they are, not as he might wish they’ll be after the Supreme Court or the November 2012 election concludes the defeat of Obamacare. Nevertheless, collaboration with Secretary Sebelius attracts risks that should be readily apparent to skilled politicians like Daniels and Perry.

Suppose, for example, that Secretary Sebelius does give way enough to make a deal with these conservative governors. Surely President Obama will exploit such a compromise for all it’s worth on the campaign trail, demonstrating the “flexibility” of his signature “reform.” I’m surprised that these Republican governors are willing to accept responsibility for such a consequence.

Furthermore, Daniels admits that he’s asking Secretary Sebelius “to abandon most of the command-and-control aspect of the law as written” (emphasis mine). Well, if the reforms that he and the other governors are demanding would require changing the legislation, there’s a heck of an easier way to do it than entering tedious, stressful, and likely inconclusive negotiations with Secretary Sebelius.

It’s called “Repeal and Replace.”

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