Oba­macare wins re­prieve with re-elec­tion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Like a sick pa­tient who some­how al­ways ral­lies, Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care law sur­vived an­other scare Nov. 6 with Mr. Obama’s de­feat of Repub­li­can chal­lenger Mitt Rom­ney.

The fu­ture of the Af­ford­able Care Act, bet­ter known as Oba­macare, ap­pears se­cure with Mr. Obama’s vic­tory over an op­po­nent who vowed to be­gin re­peal­ing the law on his very first day in of­fice. The sweep­ing health care law, the crown jewel of Mr. Obama’s first-term agenda, had pre­vi­ously cheated death in June when it was up­held by the Supreme Court on a 5-4 de­ci­sion.

With Mr. Obama in of­fice for an­other four years, noth­ing stands in the law’s way ex­cept an­other three dozen law­suits, con­tin­ued Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion in Wash­ing­ton and dozens of state cap­i­tals, and the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s own abil­ity to im­ple­ment the law by meet­ing a se­ries of bench­marks and dead­lines lead­ing up to full im­ple­men­ta­tion in 2014.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion de­layed un­til af­ter the elec­tion sub­mit­ting some of the law’s more con­tro­ver­sial re­quire­ments, such as ex­plain­ing what con­sti­tutes a “min­i­mum in­sur­ance-ben­e­fits pack­age.” With the elec­tion over, all eyes will now be on ad­min­is­tra­tion reg­u­la­tors to fill in the gaps, said an­a­lysts.

“They’ve been hold­ing back on a huge over­load of reg­u­la­tions be­cause of the elec­tion,” said Grace-Marie Turner, pres­i­dent of the Galen In­sti­tute, a health care pol­icy re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion. “They re­ally did turn off the buzz saw for a few months for the elec­tion. We’ve been in this kind of lull be­fore the on­slaught re­ally be­gins.”

The first dead­line comes Nov. 16, when gov­er­nors are re­quired to say whether their state will par­tic­i­pate in the fed­eral health care “ex­changes” where con­sumers will pur­chase their in­sur­ance af­ter 2014. Most gov­er­nors put off the de­ci­sion un­til af­ter the elec­tion, in part be­cause they feared — or hoped — Mr. Rom­ney would make the task un­nec­es­sary. thing is sup­posed to go live.”

Four states tried to put the brakes on Oba­macare with bal­lot mea­sures that limit the law’s reach. Alabama, Mis­souri, Mon­tana and Wy­oming voted to ap­prove anti-Oba­macare mea­sures, though Florida nar­rowly re­jected an amend­ment that would have banned manda­tory in­sur­ance

With the elec­tion over, all eyes will now be on ad­min­is­tra­tion

reg­u­la­tors to fill in the gaps, said an­a­lysts. The first dead­line comes Nov. 16, when gov­er­nors are re­quired to say whether their state will par­tic­i­pate in the fed­eral health

care “ex­changes” where con­sumers will pur­chase their in­sur­ance af­ter 2014. Most gov­er­nors put off the de­ci­sion un­til af­ter the elec­tion, in part be­cause they feared — or hoped — Mr. Rom­ney would make the task un­nec­es­sary.

“We’re about to find out how many gar­ments the em­peror has on,” said Ed Haislmaier, se­nior re­search fel­low at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion. “I’m watch­ing to see what reg­u­la­tions come out. When they come out, and what they say, will tell me whether they’re any­where near meet­ing the statu­tory dead­lines of Oct. 1, 2013, which is when this whole reg­u­la­tions.

Crit­ics said the re­jec­tions were largely sym­bolic, given the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion to up­hold the law. Still, the states do have some con­trol over how the mea­sure is im­ple­mented. For ex­am­ple, the Mis­souri mea­sure, Propo­si­tion E, pro­hibits the state from set­ting up a health care ex­change.

Exit polls showed that vot­ers still aren’t sold on the law. The sur­vey found that 49 per­cent of vot­ers wanted to re­peal all or some of Oba­macare, while 44 per­cent wanted to keep it as is or ex­pand it, with large par­ti­san dif­fer­ences on who sup­ported the law.

Oba­macare was seen as the driver be­hind the Repub­li­can surge in the 2010 elec­tion, but an­a­lysts say the is­sue failed to res­onate as pow­er­fully with vot­ers in 2012. One rea­son may be that an­other year had passed and voter anger over the bill had muted.

An­other fac­tor was that Mr. Rom­ney didn’t at­tack the pres­i­dent on the de­tails of Oba­macare, such as the in­di­vid­ual man­date, per­haps in part be­cause he had signed a health care mea­sure while gover­nor of Mas­sachusetts that also con­tained a re­quire­ment that all state res­i­dents pur­chase health in­sur­ance cov­er­age.

“In a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, first of all there are lots of other is­sues, but Rom­ney re­ally didn’t get into why he didn’t like the law or what he would do him­self,” said Ms. Turner.

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