The money line: “The debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” You’re welcome, America.
Ben Domenech wonders how one easily manipulated number, which was itself derided as irrelevant by lefty wonks back when it looked like O-Care would never hit its enrollment target, is supposed to meaningfully change the political facts on the ground.
The health care law’s stumbles out of the gate were unexpected, and it’s understandable that supporters would look for any silver lining as a sign of hope that this approach would be a success. But it is a mess. It will continue to be a mess. The winners are heavily outnumbered by the losers at the current moment, and there is no sign that a bend in the cost curve or a shift in premiums will change that dynamic. Supporters of the administration will try to find poll numbers that indicate avenues to success or achieve more support for the law. But the negatives of the law have eroded support among the very constituencies who were supposed to love it.
President Obama promised that under his law, we could keep our plans, we could keep our doctors, and our premium costs would go down. None of that has happened. And unfortunately for supporters of the law, that’s what people care about. All Obamacare had to do to be a popular success was to work – was to match up with the expectations President Obama and the Democrats set for it. If it did, they would be running on the issue for a generation – if it didn’t, the issue would be a weapon for the other side.
It hasn’t. They can’t. It is. And if you think I’m wrong, there’s a handy test for that this fall: it’s called the ballot box.
Yeah, notwithstanding the champagne corks popping on the Hill today, don’t expect to see footage of O taking this rhetorical bow in any Democratic ads this fall, especially after the 2015 premium rates come out. What we’re “celebrating” as a nation is simply pure progressive perseverance in defending a policy that’s failed to deliver on every major promise made in selling it except the feds’ ability to coerce many millions into participating on pain of financial penalties if they didn’t. That’s why the line I quoted up top is the big takeaway. It’s not that the law is working. It’s simply that the law has survived. More from Ramesh Ponnuru:
But it’s clear now that one scenario with a lot of purchase among conservative opponents of Obamacare — that the law would “implode,” “collapse” or “unravel” — is highly unlikely. A quick death spiral was always a remote possibility, even if the early troubles of the exchange websites made it look a little less remote. Many congressional Republicans wanted to believe the idea, though, especially because they viewed it as one more reason they could avoid coming up with their own health-care agenda. (This was illogical — if the program was going to self-destruct in months, wouldn’t the country need a replacement ready? — but the psychological impulse was to avoid grappling with health-care issues.)
Supporters of Obamacare see the enrollment numbers as more evidence that the law is here to stay. Of course, those numbers don’t give us any reason to think that the law will do a lot of good at a reasonable price, or that its basic structure can be modified to pass that test. But the supporters are right that meeting the target of 7 million enrollments will make repealing and replacing the law harder.
One thing I’d add, per Ramesh and contra Ben, is that repeal in 2017 might not be feasible even if a Republican ends up winning the White House. That’s because the Senate landscape in 2016 is as unfavorable to the GOP as this year’s landscape is to Democrats. Sean Trende has modeled both elections and finds it unlikely that Republicans will bank so many seats this year that they’ll end up holding the Senate after Democrats rack up a bunch of wins two years from now. If he’s right then repeal will still face a stumbling block under President Walker or President Paul or whoever — namely, a Democratic Senate. That’s not written in stone, of course: If O-Care is sufficiently disastrous come 2016 that voters hand the White House back to the GOP because of it, even a slim Democratic majority in the Senate might not prevent 60 votes forming for repeal. The point, simply, is that it won’t be easy, even if things work out well electorally for Republicans in the short term.