Health Care Law is Obama’s Gift to GOP for 2016

The Covington News - - OPINION - SCOTT RAS­MUSSEN COLUM­NIST To find out more about Scott Ras­mussen and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit www.cre­ators. com.

Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care law is the gift that keeps on giv­ing to the GOP.

In 2010, of course, pas­sage of the law pow­ered the Repub­li­can gains of 62 seats in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives and pick­ups of more than 700 state leg­isla­tive seats across the na­tion.

The law didn’t go into ef­fect in time to hurt the pres­i­dent’s re-elec­tion bid in 2012, but it is mak­ing life ex­tremely dif­fi­cult for the pres­i­dent’s party in 2014. Cau­tious belt­way pun­dit Stu­art Rothenberg re­cently an­nounced that he is “ex­pect­ing a siz­able Repub­li­can Se­nate wave” this year. He be­lieves the GOP will pick up at least seven seats to gain majority con­trol of the Se­nate and will not be “shocked by a larger gain.”

The dy­namic in 2014 is a lot like it was four years ear­lier. Democrats be­lieve that sooner or later peo­ple will learn to love the law called the “Af­ford­able Care Act” by its sup­port­ers and “Oba­macare” by ev­ery­one else. Re­cently, the left-lean­ing Talk­ing Points Memo fea­tured a story pro­claim­ing “GOP’s Oba­macare Night­mare Is Com­ing True: It’s Work­ing.”

While it’s easy for Democrats to find such sto­ries on­line, the hope that vot­ers will learn to love the pres­i­dent’s health care law is not work­ing out. In fact, the op­po­site is true. Over time, it has be­come even less popular. Health in­dus­try ex­pert Bob Laszewski says that Democrats who think the is­sue will fade by Elec­tion Day are en­gaged in “Wish­ful think­ing.”

Laszewski, by the way, is not a Repub­li­can cam­paign sur­ro­gate who can be eas­ily dis­missed. He’s a rec­og­nized ex­pert on the health care law, and the Wash­ing­ton Post’s Wonkblog named him “Pun­dit of the Year” in 2013.

Writ­ing on his own Health Care Pol­icy blog, Laszewski high­lights many prob­lems ex­pected over the com­ing months. To cite just one ex­am­ple, the ad­min­is­tra­tion is en­cour­ag­ing those who signed up on a health care ex­change last year to auto-re­new their pol­icy. Do­ing so will avoid the has­sle of a re­turn trip to the health­care.gov web­site.

How­ever, avoid­ing the re-en­roll­ment has­sle is a high-risk ap­proach. Even though the auto-re­newal would let peo­ple keep their same pol­icy, the con­sumer could get burned by a much higher cost. That’s be­cause of the com­pli­cated for­mu­las used to cal­cu­late the sub­si­dies.

That will cer­tainly be an­noy­ing to stunned pol­i­cy­hold­ers, but the po­lit­i­cal kicker is the gift that the law will pro­vide for a Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in 2016.

Here’s why. Cur­rently, in­surance com­pa­nies are pro­tected from los­ing money dur­ing the first three years of the health care law’s im­ple­men­ta­tion. What­ever they lose, the gov­ern­ment will cover the cost. That means in­surance com­pa­nies can keep prices low to at­tract cus­tomers se­cure in the knowl­edge that the gov­ern­ment will bail them out if needed.

Start­ing in 2017, though, the in­surance com­pa­nies will lose their gov­ern­ment guar­an­tee. If they keep prices ar­ti­fi­cially low, they will lose money. That’s not likely to hap­pen, and it’s hard to imag­ine any pub­lic support for an on­go­ing in­surance company bailout. Prices will rise; the only ques­tion is how much.

The new pric­ing, with­out the gov­ern­ment guar­an­tee, will be an­nounced in the sum­mer and fall of 2016 — prime time to dam­age the Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

Pres­i­dent Obama won’t be on the bal­lot in 2016, but his health care law will still be help­ing the GOP.

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