House GOP quietly passes bill to expand coverage choices under ObamaCare

Well, they tried to do it quietly. It didn’t work out.


Originally, O-Care placed caps on deductibles in plans offered by small businesses, which meant less flexibility for employers in what they could offer their workers. That’s bad news for young and healthy employees who don’t visit the doctor much and would have preferred a plan with low premiums and a higher deductible. It’s also bad news for people who use health savings accounts to make high deductibles more affordable. So, last week, the House leadership agreed to insert a provision in the “doc fix” bill (the one that “passed” via a rigged, bogus voice vote) to eliminate the cap. Business wanted it, Democrats wanted it, the Republican leadership wanted it — but did the House GOP rank and file want it?

Because the vote was so opaque and tainted, we’ll never know.

“Maybe you say it helps (Obamacare), but it really helps the small businessman,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., one of several physician-lawmakers among Republicans and an advocate of repeal…

It is unclear how many members of the House rank and file knew of it because the legislation was passed by a highly unusual voice vote without debate…

Asked if the legislation strengthened the law, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said, “I would hope so. I believe that” it does. He added, “So there are changes being made. But the Republicans have to get over if they hate ‘Obamacare’ and are going to repeal it,” he added.

Rory Cooper, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said, “This is another in a series of changes to Obamacare that the House has supported to help save Americans from being harmed by the law, and we’re glad to see the President signed it into law.” Cantor was involved in negotiations on the legislation, which were overseen by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Reid.

Lifting the cap is the first time the GOP’s cooperated with Democrats to make it easier for people to get coverage under O-Care. Which raises anew a question the party will be wrestling with until January 2017 (at least): If repeal is momentarily impossible, should Republicans work to improve the law to lighten the burden on Americans (“bide your time”) or should they demand that O-Care be implemented exactly as it was passed so that Americans can render a fully informed verdict on Democratic-led health care (“let it burn”)? Here’s Joel Pollak on the bide-your-time approach in October of last year, after the shutdown:

The problem is that a member of Congress has to face his or her constituents and explain what he or she is doing to help them–not in 2017, when the only realistic possibility for repealing Obamacare will arise, but today. It would be unacceptable for Rubio or Cruz to tell their constituents that the voters have to be taught a lesson. So they have to take some kind of action to “fix” Obamacare, while still pressing for its repeal.

And here’s DrewM in the “let it burn” camp, writing today about the GOP’s new O-Care fix:

The whole idea behind not “fixing” ObamaCare is that in order to do the heavy lifting of repealing it you need as many people angry about it as possible. If you start pealing off repeal supporters, you’re helping eliminate pressure to actually repeal the damn thing. But let’s be honest, “repeal” is just some BS Republicans tell people to win their votes. When push comes to shove, they will tinker with it and call it a day.

The risk in the “bide your time” approach is that the more comfortable you make O-Care for Americans, the harder it is to get people excited about repeal later. The risk in “let it burn” is that the more obstructionist you are, the easier you make it for Democrats to convince people that O-Care would be working just fine if not for Republicans blocking the necessary repairs. Which strategy is better? Back in October, defending the “defund” effort that led to the shutdown, Ted Cruz rejected the “let it burn” crowd’s proposal to get out of the way and let ObamaCare take effect in full, knowing that Republicans would only benefit from the backlash. “Basically inflict a bunch of harm on the American people and hope we benefit politically from it, what a terrible cynical approach,” said Cruz. “I’m not interested in seeing the American people suffer just because my party might benefit politically if they blame the Democrats for the foolish policies that have been imposed.” Here we are six months later and the law’s a political reality. Does that principle — ease the people’s suffering as much as you can — still hold or has the urgency to stop the law now that it’s taken root changed such that the GOP should oppose stabilizing “improvements” at all cost?