Wednesday, September 26, 2012
The Obamacare Gift Basket
By Matt Purple on 9.26.12 @ 6:09AM
It's bountiful for Republicans. So start running on it.
Something remarkable happened at the Democratic National Convention earlier this month. After three years of reeling from the political damage wrought by Obamacare, which stroked even Massachusetts with a red brush, Democrats stood up and defended their law. Patients with pre-existing conditions took to the podium. Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius had a prime speaking slot. The delegates wore "Obamacare as [a] badge of honor," as Greg Sargent gushed.
But then something even more remarkable happened. Despite the Democrats' collective bear hug, the polls didn't budge. And they still haven't. According to a Rasmussen survey taken last week, likely voters favor repealing Obamacare by 11 points. The numbers have been fairly static for two years.
Ronald Reagan was called the Teflon president because liberal attacks didn't stick and his popularity remained high. Obamacare has achieved the opposite immunity: defenses of it bounce away and the public goes on loathing. The American people have made up their minds. The Tea Party won the argument.
And that's what makes the Republican strategy towards Obamacare perplexing. The message is muddled and occasionally nonexistent. The Romney for President website lists several sensible health reforms and Romney himself says he supports the full repeal of Obamacare. Then he suddenly defends a couple of its provisions, then clarifies his position again, while discordant aides chime in from all directions. Full-throated, expository attacks on the law are rarely made.
Every Republican claims to be against "Obamacare." But "Obamacare" isn't a single issue. It's a gift basket to a Republican campaign stuffed with everything Americans hate about big government. Look, here's a punitive mandate. And here's a consolidation of power in the bureaucracy. And this greasy-palms crony capitalism should be helpful. Not to mention a trampling of religious liberty, a technocratic advisory board with authority over Medicare cuts, a heinous new tax on medical devices that starts next year, and more than 1,200 waivers issued to lucky (and mostly unionized) businesses.
The gigantic, shambling abomination that is Obamacare contains so much ammunition for conservatives that the NRA should be scoring it.
Let's take a look at some of the recent developments:
More than six million Americans will get slapped with the individual mandate tax. That's according to the Congressional Budget Office and it's a 50% increase over their 2010 projection. With Obamacare lumping everyone, including those with pre-existing conditions, into a giant pool, removing six million people could further drive up premiums.
Risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions are languishing. These were a temporary measure so patients could obtain insurance before the full Obamacare law went into effect. But as Scott Gottlieb points out, "The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the $5 billion allocated to these pools could enroll 200,000 consumers. They envisioned enrollment growing to more than 400,000. But only 77,877 have signed up as of July, yet the program is way over its budget." It's classic government economics: underestimate the cost, overestimate the demand.
The AARP colluded with the White House to pass Obamacare. The House Energy and Commerce Committee found e-mails showing that the AARP collaborated extensively with the administration back in 2009, despite the fact that their membership opposed the bill. Why? It was a classic scheme between lobbyists and politicians. Obamacare cuts Medicare Advantage, which will move more seniors onto "medigap" insurance plans…which just happen to be sold by the AARP.
The bill's funding is falling apart. The left claimed Obamacare would be deficit-neutral and forced the CBO to choke out the same conclusion. Now, piece by piece, the math is coming unraveled. The 1099 reporting requirement on small businesses, which would have raised $17 billion, is gone. The CLASS Act, a publicly-financed insurance option expected to save $86 billion, was abandoned. And $500 billion of funding is dependent on cuts to Medicare that are unlikely to happen.
New taxes, shady accounting, crony capitalism…this is why people mumble bitterly about Washington. There are certain provisions in Obamacare -- coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, for example -- that are popular. But they're mightily outweighed by just about everything else. Attention focused on the waivers or the medical devices tax, with digestible explanations by Republican candidates, would damage Obamacare's popularity even further.
This sort of meddling and rearranging is what Democrats do when they're in power. It's what they tried to do to the energy market with cap and trade, and it's what they've already done to the student loan market. Americans overwhelmingly think government is doing too much. Loud opposition to these bureaucratic Tetris games must be the centerpiece of any Republican strategy.
For the last month of the campaign, Romney should pivot hard in this direction. It will put him in a sticky position thanks to his own health care scheme in Massachusetts. But Romney's been wrangling with flip-flopping allegations for years. His campaign needs an energy boost and time is running out.
He should grab the Obamacare gift basket and run with it. The political benefits will outweigh the MSNBC snipes. It's how 2010 was won and it's what the public wants to hear now.
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To read another article by Matt Purple, click here.
Posted by Brett at 4:16 PM