The big new Democrat brainstorm for surviving the 2014 elections is to run on a platform of “fixing” ObamaCare. They’re hoping this rhetoric can be made to sound more constructive, and therefore more appealing to voters, than Republican calls for repeal. The velvet glove of “fix” rhetoric will fit neatly around the iron fist of despair that is the true Democrat Party message to America: It’s the “settled law of the land,” you can never be free of it no matter how much you hate it, people we like more than you will suffer if the law is repealed, you really don’t want to manage your own health care anyway because it’s scary, there are no refunds when “progressives” take a chunk of your liberty because making government smaller is “regressive.”
The big problem with this Democrat strategy is that they don’t really have any ideas for “fixing” ObamaCare. That’s because it cannot be fixed. The President’s failed health-care law is fundamentally flawed. It’s a massive income-redistribution scheme, with the customary 90 cents on the dollar skimmed off for Big Government overhead, and those schemes are only politically viable when the Takers outnumber the Makers. That’s not the case with ObamaCare, which hurts far more people than it helps, in just about every income bracket and demographic.
ObamaCare’s failure can be judged by the public reaction as each of its Big Lies unraveled: If you like your health care plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. The average family will save over $2400 per year. We must drastically reduce the scandalous number of uninsured Americans.
The first Big Lie will go nuclear when employer-market plans start dying this year. There is no way to “fix” that. President Obama might break the law again to illegally modify the Affordable Care Act to grant some sort of temporary reprieve, and maybe try to set Republicans up to look like the villains if they insist on fidelity to the law Democrats rammed through Congress, but that gambit has reached its expiration date. If Republicans have a modicum of political sense, they’ll remind voters that Democrats are playing them for fools by asking them to accept temporary one-year Band-Aids that do nothing more than control ObamaCare’s political bleeding until the midterm elections are past.
I’m as cynical about the GOP’s messaging skills as anyone, but I doubt they could miss the obvious “playing for time until the elections are over” angle, especially since some of the previous temporary patch jobs are already coming apart at the seams. Frankly, I’m not sure the public needs all that much reminding; Obama’s constant arbitrary revisions to ObamaCare have already made a mockery of the “settled law of the land.”
At any rate, there’s really no feasible way to defuse the First Big Lie, because anything that keeps the old, superior plans alive for much longer is only going to make ObamaCare look worse. Like all other socialist schemes, the Affordable Care Act cannot survive competition. It must be inescapable and compulsory, or it will fall apart as people flee its clutches. Enrollment levels are disastrous enough as it is; Democrats will have no luck running as apologists for a multi-trillion-dollar program nobody wants to participate in.
Likewise, there’s no way to fix ObamaCare “doc shock.” Of course, the geniuses who dumped ObamaCare on us think the solution is more hyper-regulation: passing laws to force those tiny ObamaCare provider networks to become larger, so fewer people lose access to their doctors. This will inevitably raise the cost of ACA policies, which are already too expensive, not to mention running into resistance from the medical community. Higher ACA premiums mean lower enrollment and more state-by-state insurance death spirals. Republicans should make these points during their 2014 campaigns, along with plenty of warnings about the coming insurance-industry bailout. That would be a nice bit of political judo, turning Democrat demonization of the insurance industry against them, now that they’re poised to become sugar daddies for a massive special interest they used to denigrate relentlessly.
“Doc shock” is actually still a disease in the very early stages. Another warning issued by ObamaCare critics is that our doctor supply will diminish as doctors find a variety of reasons to disengage from the system. This will be an especially acute problem for the newly-swelled ranks of Medicaid patients.
There’s no way to “fix” the high cost of Affordable Care Act policies. That problem is going to get worse – much worse – especially if Obama tries to regulate “doc shock” away. The disappointing enrollment figures for ObamaCare mean higher premiums are baked in the cake anyway. As with many other aspects of the ObamaCare debacle, premiums will rise at different rates in different states, making some areas particularly toxic for the Democrats… and they have not a single idea, not even a puff of rhetorical hot air, for how to bring those premiums down.
The most likely idea they’ll eventually put forward will be higher subsidies for more people, but that’s going to be a tough sell given how badly ObamaCare is already hammering the deficit, and the healthy reluctance of middle-class Americans to grow dependent on government subsidies for a product they could formerly purchase with dignity.
That’s the political problem posed by ObamaCare in a nutshell: it’s making everything worse, for too many people. It’s not even reducing the number of uninsured very much, which was pretty much the last political straw Democrats could grasp. If a large number of formerly uninsured people were picking up insurance for the first time, Democrats could used weaponized guilt to beat the rest of America into submission – how dare you complain about your high premiums, back-breaking deductibles, and shoddy choice of doctor when these good people know the joy of health insurance for the first time in their lives!
But that’s not happening. The vast majority of ObamaCare enrollments are coming from people who used to have better insurance they liked more, but lost their plans due to the First Big Lie. Only ten to twenty percent of ACA sales are going to the formerly uninsured. Ten-year projections show an extremely modest reduction in the number of uninsured, an “achievement” that could be achieved through plenty of reforms that wouldn’t have all the problems of ObamaCare.
Several reports this week have observed that Democrat rhetoric about “fixing” ObamaCare is running afoul of their absolute lack of actual repair proposals. Byron York at the Washington Examiner:
Many leading Democrats say they want to “fix” the Affordable Care Act. “I think what most Americans want us to do is not repeal Obamacare, which is what our Republican colleagues are focused on, but fix it,” said Sen. Charles Schumer on “Meet the Press” on Dec. 22. “The president is working to fix it; we are working in the Senate to fix it; we urge our Republican colleagues to join us in fixing it.”
Sounds good. But what, precisely, are Democrats on Capitol Hill doing to fix Obamacare? The answer is not much.
“It’s just a talking point,” says a GOP Senate aide of Schumer’s claim. (A Schumer spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.)
“No Democratic fixes jump out,” says a GOP House aide. “Seems like all they want to do is continue delaying portions of the law to insulate themselves against the political fallout.”
A spokesman for Rep. Tom Price, one of the House GOP’s leaders on health care policy, says Democrats haven’t contacted Price to discuss possible fixes to Obamacare. “No,” says the spokesman. “No one has approached.” The same is true for Rep. Steve Scalise, another House Republican health care leader.
Obviously Republicans would be foolish to jump in and save Democrats from their own failed law… which, remember, was railroaded through Congress with payoffs and shady tricks in a rushed vote that made no effort to win Republican support, and got none. The Democrats were busy using your money to buy off reluctant members of their own caucus to practice any bipartisan outreach. They pushed the vote through with such comical banana-republic speed that it wasn’t even fully written yet, and neither Chuck Schumer nor any other Democrat bothered to read the parts that were written before they voted on it. I hope Republican candidates are savvy enough to remind voters of that, too.
ObamaCare illustrates the problem with forcing bad legislation through Congress on a party-line vote, especially something on the scale of the health-care takeover. The concessions necessary to win Republican votes would have either killed the bill outright – to the great benefit of the United States of America – or modified it into something more viable, more “fixable,” with better odds of securing bipartisan cooperation to design the fixes. The result wouldn’t have resembled the Affordable Care Act much, and that would be a very good thing.
Josh Kraushaar at National Journal also noticed that Democrats are talking up their “mend it, don’t end it” political strategy without advancing any ideas for mending it:
The latest version of the argument points to polling showing that voters don’t want to repeal the law but prefer to see it fixed???perfectly in line with the newly adopted positions of vulnerable Democratic officeholders. In a memo leaked to the press, Democrats argue they can neutralize their health care vulnerabilities by promoting their desire to fix the law and blaming Republicans for intransigence in seeking a full repeal. But dig a bit deeper past the talking points, and it’s unclear what they want to fix???beyond their broken poll numbers.
Indeed, in a sign that Democrats are stuck in neutral on their Obamacare messaging, the “news” from the memo is months old. The strategy devised by the sharpest party operatives has already been in effect in numerous ads across the country and was promoted by the party’s top strategists two months ago. In those targeted races, public polling has shown Democratic standing worsening where the on-air Obamacare debate has already begun. (See: Landrieu, Mary; Hagan, Kay.)
Kraushaar highlights an interesting example of predicament facing Democrats, who are now absurdly laboring to position themselves as insightful critics of a law they formerly supported with the blind enthusiasm of zombies chasing a minor cast member on “The Walking Dead”:
For a crystal-clear sign of the political woes Obamacare faces, look no further than the ad the Democratic House Majority PAC is airing in a majority-Hispanic south Florida district that Obama carried twice. The seat, represented by freshman Rep. Joe Garcia, is one of a small handful in the country that gave Obama a larger share of the vote in 2012 than in 2008???he won 53 percent last election. It’s also one of the media markets where the Obama presidential campaign spent millions of dollars in Spanish-language ads praising the law in unequivocal terms.
This new ad, as part of the damage control, contains no such accolades. It promotes how Garcia “took the White House to task,” referencing its “disastrous” health care website. Like its counterparts, it argues Garcia wants to fix the broken law. Democratic strategists said that outside of the most liberal precincts, they can’t persuade people of the law’s benefits until they acknowledge its problems first.
The Garcia ad shows that even in an Obamacare stronghold, where support for the law ran well ahead of its national numbers, dissatisfaction is creeping up. Indeed, The New York Times reported that uninsured Hispanics were signing up for the law at “strikingly” lower rates than anticipated. One Democratic operative involved in the race told me it was much harder to find nonpartisan Obamacare advocates to cheerlead for the law in South Florida this year???compared with 2012.
Yes, good luck running as champions of the little guy against the “disastrous” law you shoved down their throats, Democrats. The case for full repeal of ObamaCare grows stronger by the day, and it will only benefit from these ridiculous triangulation efforts, which must begin with Democrats acknowledging the same flaws Republicans are spotlighting. There is no way to fix ObamaCare. It must be swept aside in order to enable the real reforms that would actually improve health insurance, bring costs under control, ensure a healthy medical industry, and dismantle the incredibly expensive bureaucracy Democrats have created. Now let’s see if Republicans are smart enough to get behind those solid reforms while their opponents are blowing smoke.