Don’t give up on Obamacare yet, Republicans
P.J. O’Rourke once remarked, “Feeling good about government is like looking on the bright side of any catastrophe. When you quit looking on the bright side, the catastrophe is still there.” With all the doom and gloom free-market advocates must be feeling these days, there’s one truth that should bolster their resolve about the future: The catastrophe will still be there.
Conventional wisdom says that Republicans need a major attitude adjustment on cultural and social views in both substance and tone. That may very well be true. But the concern from Democrats regarding the GOP’s miseries has a tendency to inject one exceptionally terrible piece of advice into the mix: namely, that conservatives should stop griping about Obamacare.
As you all know, there is no such thing in Washington as a flawed government program, only a desperately under-funded one. Ideological rigidity, despite what you may have heard, is not a monopoly of the right. Nevertheless, a law so poorly conceived will surely be poorly implemented. Those who support it will be spending political capital defending it for many coming years.
Obamacare isn’t popular today, and there’s no reason to believe its appeal will grow. Let’s start with the expectations of supporters. For those gullible enough to believe that politicians can make them healthier while constructing more efficient and less expensive systems, there is the promise of dissatisfaction. And for those who support the Affordable Care Act for less ideological reasons, they’ll soon realize that the infinite promises of the theoretical Obamacare can’t match reality.
Even government officials seem worried about the future of things like the government-run exchanges, an integral component for the future expansion of Obamacare (which most of you will have no choice but to join). Henry Chao, an official at the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services charged with administering the technology used by the exchanges, recently tasked himself with the lofty goal of making sure “it’s not a Third World experience.”
Way to dream!
Then there is the cost — and not the government debt, but the cost we really notice. President Obama guaranteed that Obamacare would “lower premiums by $2,500 per family per year.” Yet, national health expenditure projections from the CMMS estimate that premiums climbed by 8 percent in 2012. Though the law is not even implemented, companies are passing through the price of mandates and taxes. The Society of Actuaries predicts that individual premiums will spike at around 32 percent on average. This week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Americans not to worry too much because there are always subsidies available.
Jobs? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are around 5.5 million fewer full-time American workers now than when Obamacare was passed. On the other hand, there has been an explosion of part-time workers. If you’re lucky enough to own a business with 50 or more full-time employees, you’ll soon be mandated to offer affordable health coverage to all workers or pay a $2,000 fine for each uninsured employee. You are, in other words, incentivized to hire fewer full-time workers and more part-timers. No doubt, this will do wonders for the labor market.
These are just a few of the struggles facing Obamacare. With mission creep and thousands of pages to go, the catastrophe will grow. Perhaps the relentless opposition to Obamacare in Congress feeds into a broader perception of GOP obstructionism (alternatively known as “representing your constituents”). And no doubt, Republicans have to do a more effective job of offering their own reforms to the public. But there is no compelling reason to stop objecting to its existence — despite the helpful advice of Democrats.
Follow David Harsanyi @davidharsanyi.