Time to try another delay in the individual mandate?
posted at 10:01 am on December 24, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Well, why not? Republicans tried this a number of times, only to be rebuffed by Democrats who insisted that ObamaCare would be totally awesome. In fact, Nancy Pelosi is still promising a “glorious” result:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says December has been a “great month” for Obamacare sign-ups, and she said things will only get better
as more people enroll.
“It’s worth the trouble. It’s going to be a glorious thing,” Pelosi told a conference call on Monday.
“It’s about life, a healthier life, liberty, the freedom to pursue our happiness. It honors the vows of our founders. A person can follow his or her passion and not be chained by a policy, so they could start a business, be self-employed, change jobs. It’s a very, very exciting thing. And it’s about wellness and prevention. It’s about the health of America, not just the health care for Americans.
“So we’re very proud of it, and our enthusiasm for it … strengthens our determination to make sure it works.”
I’d trust Pelosi on this one. After all, she did accurately predict that we wouldn’t find out what was in the bill until it passed, and now Democrats see three years too late what a political disaster it has become.
Well, at least some Democrats see it, like Joe Manchin, who argued Sunday for a one-year moratorium on enforcement of mandates. That would take a Congressional change to ObamaCare (in most administrations, although arguably not this one), and Byron York argues that the time is ripe for another shot at the delay strategy (via Instapundit):
It’s time to take another vote on the individual mandate. Would those 174 Democrats who stood firmly behind the mandate in July still be there now? Or will the 22 who voted to delay the mandate be joined by more who are worried by what they’ve seen since October?
If House Republicans want to highlight Democratic nervousness about Obamacare, focusing on the individual mandate is a good way to do it.
The coercive, unwanted mandate is by far the most unpopular feature of the law. When the New York Times recently asked, “Do you approve or disapprove of the part in the 2010 health care law requiring nearly all Americans to have health insurance coverage by 2014 or pay a penalty?” a full 68 percent said they disapproved, while just 31 percent approved.
When the Times polled only those Americans without health insurance — the group supposed to benefit most from Obamacare — 77 percent disapproved of the individual mandate, while just 21 percent approved.
So almost nobody likes it. But here’s the thing: The individual mandate is the heart of Obamacare. From the president on down, administration officials believe that without the mandate, the system won’t work. So the one thing the public hates most is the one thing Obamacare can’t do without. For many Democrats, voting against the mandate, even delaying the mandate, is tantamount to repealing Obamacare altogether. They can’t do it, no matter what the voters think.
But is it? Former Medtronic CEO Bill George wonders whether Barack Obama himself has started to retreat from the individual mandate, and ObamaCare itself:
The latest announcement from the White House on Thursday, December 19, seems to indicate that even President Obama is backing away from Obamacare.
At the very least, he is bobbing and weaving like an exhausted prize fighter trying to avoid a knockout punch. For the President, that punch would be a disastrous rollout of Obamacare that leaves Americans so angry that the Democrats lose their five-seat majority in the Senate in 2014. That could happen with the never-ending fallout from the new plans. Not surprisingly, the latest White House retreat just before the December 23rd enrollment deadline was triggered by pressure from moderate Senate Democrats like Mark Warner (D-VA) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Landrieu faces a tough 2014 election campaign.
Thursday’s announcement said that six million Americans who have had their insurance plans cancelled are eligible to buy catastrophic policies and are exempt from penalties if they go without insurance in 2014. Not that the new catastrophic plans are cheap. In California the pre-Obamacare median cost for a 25-year old non-smoking male was $92 per month on eHealthInsurance.com. This compares to $205 per month for a bronze plan and $184 per month for a catastrophic plan. Tacitly admitting that for many Americans the cost of buying insurance on the federal exchange exceeds their current insurance cost, Health and Human Services Secretary Katherine Sebelius offered them the opportunity to apply for a “hardship exemption.”
This is the fourth major pullback by the White House from the Affordable Care Act. … All these changes are exposing the flawed premise on which Obamacare is based: that the healthy young are willing to pay much more for insurance in order to support the unhealthy elderly. This policy marks the first time in U.S. history that we are asking the young to pay for the old; historically, it has always been the other way around. Altruism would not have motivated the young to assume this new cost, so the Democrats used the mandate to force the young into the pools–subsidizing care of the elderly at much higher costs to themselves. The mandate eked through the U.S. Supreme Court on a 5-4 decision, thanks to the tortured logic of Chief Justice John Roberts who deemed it wasn’t mandate after all, but rather a tax. All this comes at a time when youth unemployment is still in double digits and many more young people are stuck in low-paying jobs that barely enable them to make ends meet.
The problem for Obama is that younger Americans have begun to figure this out — and they’re not happy. But the bigger problem for Obama is that there is no Plan B, as York himself reported yesterday. A delay of the enforcement of the mandate will likely mean massive opt-outs, which will destabilize the risk pools and force premiums to skyrocket even further in 2015 in the “death spiral” scenario for insurers — with prices announced just a few weeks before the midterms. For that reason, the White House is likelier to just postpone enforcement all year in incremental steps rather than back a legislative change to the bill.
The opportunity to push the delay strategy again as an I told you so certainly may look enticing for the GOP, but accelerating that death-spiral process when it’s already begun means they will share in the blame for the result. Tinkering with the law in Congress will allow Democrats to later claim — with a small amount of justification — that Republican changes created or at least amplified the catastrophe to come. Republicans should consider that at length before allowing themselves to be drawn into the problem rather than insist on the true solution of repealing the entire mess and starting over from scratch. The better part of valor here is discretion. If Democrats want a delay, let Harry Reid pass it in the Senate first.