The whole point of any universal-coverage plan is to break the link between work and insurance. But Obamacare was never clearly advertised in those terms, notwithstanding the administration’s after-the-fact efforts to explain why the CBO report was no big deal.
Republicans were bound to pounce on the CBO report — and many voters were bound to agree with them. Yet this is likely to prove at most a tactical victory for the GOP, and possibly a pyrrhic one. The earned-benefits approach does have advantages; quite often, in fact, as the successful bipartisan reforms that linked welfare to work during the Clinton administration show.
Linking health insurance to work, however, is a bad idea: There’s just no necessary connection between how much you work and your risk of needing care. Eventually, the United States must move from a categorical approach to health insurance to a more universal one, whether through Obamacare or some less-convoluted plan.
That fact will remain long after this CBO kerfuffle is over, and Republicans are going to have to face it. We all are.