The GOP can still fight Oba­macare

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Michael Taube

The im­por­tant eco­nomic im­pli­ca­tions of Oba­macare, Pres­i­dent Obama’s costly na­tional health care plan, are be­ing de­bated in the court of pub­lic opin­ion. Yet the equally im­por­tant po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions are only now be­gin­ning to rise to the sur­face.

While it’s true many Democrats (and a few Repub­li­cans) have long sup­ported health care re­form, it was rarely seen as a po­lit­i­cal strat­egy. The rhetoric usu­ally re­volved around lighter­sound­ing terms such as “ac­ces­si­bil­ity” and “af­ford­abil­ity.” De­pend­ing on state de­mo­graph­ics and the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, th­ese terms were wisely in­cluded in cam­paign lit­er­a­ture and de­bates to show com­mit­ment to qual­ity health care for all Amer­i­cans. In re­al­ity, the sta­tus quo was main­tained by both the elephant and the don­key. That was then, and this is now. Democrats were em­bold­ened by the pres­i­dent’s health care plan, the Pa­tient Pro­tec­tion and Af­ford­able Care Act (PPACA). When it was signed into law on March 23, 2010, the PPACA evolved into its cur­rent moniker, Oba­macare, and the left’s po­lit­i­cal strat­egy dra­mat­i­cally shifted from rhetoric to ac­tion.

Sure, the po­lit­i­cal lan­guage still in­cluded “ac­ces­si­bil­ity” and “af­ford­abil­ity.” It also em­pha­sized “pro­tec­tion” (of Amer­i­cans, as well as Medi­care and Med­i­caid) and “fair­ness” (to re­duce in­equal­i­ties in the sys­tem). Var­i­ous de­mo­graphic groups, in­clud­ing se­niors, mi­nori­ties, lib­er­als and women, were ini­tially tar­geted. Over time, the un­der­ly­ing po­lit­i­cal mes­sage was sold on a wider ba­sis to all Amer­i­cans.

The Demo­cratic po­si­tion is non­sense. Oba­macare will re­port­edly cost tax­pay­ers $1 tril­lion, and will surely be a fi­nan­cial bur­den for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. It will in­crease government in­flu­ence over vir­tu­ally ev­ery as­pect of health care. Choice for con­sumers will be dra­mat­i­cally re­duced. The ex­ten­sive phase-in pe­riod be­tween 2014 and 2020 will serve as a con­stant source of con­fu­sion. Busi­nesses will be crushed un­der the weight of this 2,700-page doc­u­ment. An es­ti­mated 80,000 jobs will be lost, ac­cord­ing to the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice. More­over, re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing, Medi­care and Med­i­caid won’t be the same — and ob­vi­ously can’t be the same due to the litany of new rules and reg­u­la­tions.

Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion to Oba­macare had some pos­i­tive po­lit­i­cal ef­fect. A Reuters-Ip­sos poll in June 2012 showed 56 per­cent of Amer­i­cans sur­veyed were against it. To be sure, there was an un­sur­pris­ing po­lit­i­cal di­vide: 86 per­cent of Repub­li­cans op­posed it, whereas only 25 per­cent of gov­er­nors in (mostly) red states have come up with a dif­fer­ent strat­egy. Louisiana’s Bobby Jin­dal, Texas’ Rick Perry, Ohio’s John Ka­sich and Wis­con­sin’s Scott Walker, among oth­ers, “have de­cided it’s bet­ter to have Oba­macare forced on them than to le­git­imize it by set­ting up their own ex­changes, even if that means em­pow­er­ing the fed­eral government at the ex­pense of the states.” Maine Gov. Paul LePage’s com­ments to Bloomberg,

An es­ti­mated 80,000 jobs will be lost, ac­cord­ing to the Con­gres­sional

Bud­get Of­fice. More­over, re­gard­less of po­lit­i­cal pos­tur­ing, Medi­care and Med­i­caid won’t be the same — and ob­vi­ously can’t

be the same due to the litany of new rules and reg­u­la­tions.

Democrats felt the same. That said, the gen­eral con­sen­sus was Oba­macare wouldn’t fix health care in an ad­e­quate fash­ion, and that real re­form was nec­es­sary.

Un­for­tu­nately, that’s not go­ing to hap­pen. Mr. Obama was elected to a sec­ond term, and Oba­macare will be­come a re­al­ity. Mean­while, there’s a new chap­ter be­ing writ­ten in the pol­i­tics of Oba­macare that could end up hav­ing worse im­pli­ca­tions for Amer­i­cans — and in­ter­est­ingly, for the GOP’s fu­ture.

Politico’s Jonathan Allen re­cently noted some 19 Repub­li­can reprinted by Mr. Allen, were eye­open­ing: “I’m not lift­ing a fin­ger. We’re not go­ing to get in­volved. We’re go­ing to let Mr. Obama do a fed­eral ex­change. It’s his bill.”

Thus, var­i­ous Repub­li­can lead­ers will use the po­lit­i­cal tac­tic of blam­ing the White House for forc­ing this is­sue. They will main­tain their hands are tied with re­spect to Oba­macare. They will also ap­peal to vot­ers to keep them in of­fice to watch over this health care mon­ster they’re re­fus­ing to slay.

What’s next? GOP lead­ers from red states on the verge of be­com­ing blue states hold­ing their tongues to pro­tect their ca­reers? Mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans us­ing this non-ex­change ex­change to dis­tin­guish them­selves from more vo­cal con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans and Tea Party sup­port­ers?

This is a ter­ri­ble move. As some­one who lives in a coun­try with a uni­ver­sal health care sys­tem that has badly de­clined in re­cent decades, I can say with author­ity that main­tain­ing ra­dio si­lence about Oba­macare is go­ing to back­fire.

The eco­nomic cost of im­ple­ment­ing it will be huge, but the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal costs of sit­ting back and do­ing noth­ing could be im­mense. This won’t help the Repub­li­can Party, the coun­try or the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

Hence, red- and blue-state Repub­li­cans must con­tinue to op­pose it vig­or­ously and point out the costs to tax­pay­ers and lon­glast­ing eco­nomic dam­age at ev­ery turn. Once Oba­macare is in place, it will be in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to ever re­move it. At that point, the GOP’s po­lit­i­cal bat­tle to pro­tect health care will be ef­fec­tively over. Michael Taube is a former speech­writer for Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper and a colum­nist with The Washington Times.

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