Krauthammer: We shouldn’t defund ObamaCare

Alternate headline: “Confirmed: Krauthammer’s a RINO.” Seriously, though, he’s making a shrewd point about retail politics, especially given the left’s desperate obsession with “branding” as the source of all of its problems. No matter how expensive ObamaCare gets, no matter how many unintended consequences there are, they’ll never admit that their signature domestic achievement is bad policy. There’ll always be an excuse, be it not enough Obama speeches on the subject or an insufficiently catchy name for the legislation (really!) or, inevitably, the idea that only by making the system more statist via a public option or single-payer will it truly thrive. Krauthammer’s point is that starving the beast will simply give them another excuse for its failure, so why not prop it up initially in the expectation that it’ll fail? My addendum, which I’ve suggested before: Since liberals were such fans of benchmarks for war funding, why not apply them to O-Care funding too? Make them prove after the first few years that they really have bent the cost curve, that there’s been no decline in quality of care, etc. If they can’t, the program is automatically defunded. Remember their early predictions about how the stimulus would affect the unemployment rate? This time, missing the target would mean something. As a sneak preview, here’s something brand new today from WaPo. I blame poor “messaging”:

One of the first parts of the new health care law ready for consumers – special health plans devoted to the insurance industry’s rejects – is attracting only a fraction of the predicted customers, prompting the Obama administration and states to step up their strategies to motivate people to buy them. At the same time, since the plans opened for business in the late summer and early fall, the medical bills so far are, in at least a few states, much higher than anticipated, raising the question of whether $5 billion that Congress has devoted to the program could run out even if relatively few people join.

Federal health officials contend that the plans, known as high-risk pools, are experiencing expected growing pains. It will take time to spread the word that they exist and to adjust prices and benefits so the plans are as attractive as possible, they say.

State-level directors of the plans agree, in part. But in interviews, they also said that the insurance premiums are unaffordable for some who need the coverage – and that some would-be customers are skittish about the plans’ stability as federal lawsuits and congressional Republicans are trying to overturn the entire law. The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, the program’s official name, is an early test of President Obama’s argument that the public will embrace the politically divisive law once they see its advantages firsthand. According to some health policy researchers, the success or failure of the pools also could foreshadow the complexities of making broader changes in health insurance by 2014, when states are to open new marketplaces – or exchanges – for Americans to buy coverage individually or in small groups.

Two obvious problems with Krauthammer’s scheme, though. One, as Steve Hayes suggests in the clip, you’re taking a major risk by funding the program even for a few years, even with the expectation built in that it’ll be defunded if it misses its targets. Dependencies develop quickly; if you want to kill a bad entitlement, kill it quickly before expectations calcify. Two: As a purely political matter, there’s no way the GOP could refuse to defund it. It would be taken as proof that Republicans have already lost their nerve; the base would be equal parts crushed and enraged, to the point where you probably would start hearing chatter about a third party in earnest. Like it or not, Republicans went all in on killing ObamaCare and now they’re forced to take every opportunity to undermine it, even if letting it get up and running for the purpose of showing the public how it doesn’t work might (but probably wouldn’t) make repeal easier. Oh well. Click the image to watch.