Debbie Wasserman-Schultz: I think Democrats will run on ObamaCare next year

Via David Freddoso, who points out that Wasserman-Schultz is already sufficiently worried about the political fallout that she’s taken to referring to cancellation notices as “transition notices.” Is there any scenario in which ObamaCare turns into a winner for Democrats ahead of the midterms? Well, per Byron York‘s analysis, roughly 59 percent of people who land on the O-Care exchanges next year will be eligible for taxpayer subsidies to help pay for their new insurance. And people with preexisting conditions are getting a de facto subsidy in the form of community rating. Winners! But — not all of the people receiving subsidies will receive enough of one make their new, more expensive insurance cheaper than their current plan is. Many will earn too much to qualify for any subsidy at all. Losers! If there are more winners than losers, then maybe Democrats benefit. (Although, needless to say, the distribution of winners and losers in red and blue districts will matter hugely for the midterms.)

Still too early to tell, but here’s what the “losers” sound like these days. Meet Lori Gottlieb, who’ll be paying $5,400 more this year for a plan that gives her all sorts of new benefits she doesn’t want. And her reward for this is indifference or even annoyance from friends with employer-provided insurance that she’d dare grumble about having her income expropriated to subsidize the rest of the population:

“The nation has been better off,” wrote one friend. “Over 33 million people who did not have insurance are now going to get it.” That’s all fine and good for “the nation,” but what about my $5,400 rate hike (after-tax dollars, I wanted to add, but dared not in this group of previously closeted Mother Teresas)? Another friend wrote, “Yes, I’m paying an extra 200 a month, but I’m okay with doing that so that others who need it can have health care.”

I was shocked. Who knew my friends were such humanitarians? Has Obamacare made it un-P.C. to be concerned by a serious burden on my family’s well-being?…

[T]he self-employed middle class is being sacrificed at the altar of politically correct rhetoric, with nobody helping to ensure our health, fiscal or otherwise, because it’s trendy to cheer for the underdog. Embracing the noble cause is all very well — as long as yours isn’t the “fortunate” family that loses its access to comprehensive, affordable health care while the rest of the nation gets it.

Are there more Lori Gottliebs out there than grateful people with preexisting conditions? Maybe a better question is, even if the White House could jack up subsidies to the point where there are assuredly more winners than losers, how high would they need to be to compensate people for the hassle of losing their old plan and the fact that provider networks for new ObamaCare-compliant plans are sometimes inconveniently small? Like I said once before, that’s the unexploded landmine in the ObamaCare rollout; even if you could shower tax dollars on people to the point where they’re paying no more for their new plan than for their old one, many will still face fewer options in choosing a doctor. Gottlieb, in fact, complained about that specifically in her op-ed, as neither her son’s doctors nor her own are included in her new network. Any hike in subsidies would have to compensate people for that too to make them feel like winners. How much money are we looking at here?

And don’t forget: The disruptions to the individual market right now are only the beginning. Estimates vary but. come next year, tens of millions more people (52 million? 93 million? 129 million?) will lose their employer-provided coverage and end up on the exchanges. What percentage of those people are going to get a subsidy package sweet enough to compensate them for the aggravation, higher costs, and narrower choices of that disruption? Even if they got it, will they get it soon enough to mitigate the blow of insurers publishing the assuredly more expensive rates for 2015 in October 2014, just a few weeks before the midterms?

All of this is just a long way of saying that, once the website is tuned up and the White House figures out what to do about giving people more time to enroll for coverage next year, the political battle between Democrats and Republicans will shift to one over subsidies. And that’s much firmer ground for the GOP than battling over, say, whether to delay the individual mandate, which is already risking a party split. If Obama calls for delaying the mandate and the GOP refuses, it’ll be hard to justify (follow the last link to see why). If he calls for more generous subsidies, though, refusal is easy to justify. We’re already carrying unprecedented debt and there’s no unforeseen challenge, like the website meltdown, that can conceivably justify boosting subsidies now as an emergency “fix.” If the Affordable Care Act is affordable only if/when the feds dump truckloads of money on the insurance industry to subsidize coverage, then that’s O’s problem for not explaining it more forthrightly. Good luck next year, Debbie.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on June 01, 2023