Obamacare’s Barbed Hook


Philip Klein has an important piece on the politics of Obamacare repeal in The Washington Examiner. It’s dressed up with a lot of digs at the law and the promises which were made on its behalf – not all of which are unfair. But the key point he makes is very much on the mark. Republicans are going to have a very hard time with Obamacare repeal as long as they claim that no one will lose their coverage in the process.

Klein puts it this way.

Republicans are in serious danger of repeating Obama’s mistake, because they are having a tough time stating a simple truth, which goes something like this: “We don’t believe that it is the job of the federal government to guarantee that everybody has health insurance.”

Our team has helpfully catalogued the instances in which most key Republican leaders: Trump, Ryan, Conway and many others have gone on the record saying some version of this claim: No one will lose their coverage in Obamacare repeal.

In reality, this goes well beyond political packaging or over-promising, as Klein argues. It’s fundamental. It goes to the heart of the whole question, in ideological and political terms. It is also no longer hypothetical. There are over 20 million Americans who now have coverage and will not without Obamacare.

Indeed, this is the specter haunting the whole repeal process. This is the reason why Republicans were never able to come up with an alternative in six years of opposition under Obama and aren’t able to do so now. That’s what “replace and delay” is about. There’s no technical issue with pushing through a new plan. In fact, there isn’t really a shortage of plans. There are LOTS of plans. There’s just no plan that enough Republicans agree on.

The real issue is that Republicans appear to have accepted the premise that all the people who gained coverage under Obamacare should not lose it. That is a political concession for which there appears to be no policy solution.