Last week, Republican Senator Ron Johnson proposed a bill stating that nothing in Obamacare shall be construed as mandating the cancellation of existing health care plans. When Ted Cruz stated his goal of defunding Obamacare via the budgeting process, Senator Johnson called him “intellectually dishonest”. But we’ll return to that later.
A recent National Review piece by Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru argues that Cruz’s strategy was misguided and damaging to future GOP prospects, and they urged greater prudence going forward. Certainly a reasonable point of view, but in a recent Corner post, Lowry inadvertently highlighted why so many conservatives are tired of being lectured on why Cruz’s plan was reckless and hopeless. And further, why they don’t trust the more cautious Republican factions to know when or how to strike when vote counts are more favorable. Lowry writes:
Democrats have entered a zone of real vulnerability here. The turmoil over Obamacare — the canceled policies, the failed website launch — coupled with the president’s low standing create the possibility of Democrats getting caught in a political stampede and having to accept something like the Johnson bill.
So let me get this straight… the Democrats will be facing a “political stampede”, and Lowry’s goal is to codify in law a sloppy and dishonest Obama campaign promise? Obamacare and its namesake are imploding, and the big prize conservatives should get excited about is “the possibility” of passing a minor bill that does nothing to alter Obamacare’s fundamental nature. That’s a win?!
Because life shouldn’t only consist of cynical political calculations, if vulnerable people about to lose their coverage could be protected by Johnson’s bill, then passing it would be defensible. But is there any evidence this bill would accomplish its stated intent? Considering the plans have already been cancelled, insurers would need to go back to get approval from state insurance commissioners. Many states have enacted laws since Obamacare’s passage to comport their regulations with it, so Johnson’s bill may preempt those state laws. Also, many insurers have already struck deals with exchange officials not to sell in the non-Obamacare individual market.
Good luck solving that bureaucratic Rubik’s cube in time.
The likely reality is that an extremely small percentage of people who got cancellation notices will be able to get their old plans back.
And we haven’t even gotten to the possibility that other Obamacare unintended consequences may affect the profitability of certain older plans, forcing insurance companies to cancel them just to stay in business. If, as The Nevada AFL-CIO claims, “the unintended consequences of the ACA will lead to the destruction of the 40-hour work week”, to then presume that you can protect a few Anthem Blue Cross individual health plans fails to pass the smell test. It also reveals a poor ability to prioritize.
This too-clever-by-a-quarter gambit would conclude with Barack Obama holding a press conference stating: “It’s great to finally see the more reasonable Republicans work to improve the law, like they should’ve been doing all along. This bill makes clear that nothing in the Affordable Care Act forces people off of their plans, and any plan cancellations are based purely on normal business decisions made by insurance company executives.” In an attempt to embarrass the president, Republicans would only end up giving him political cover, helping no one in the process. Bravo, Stupid Party.
Johnson’s strategy not only lacks ambition, but also self-awareness. His bill is named the “If You Like Your Health Care Plan You Can Keep It” Act (the kids these days call that “trolling”). What Johnson overlooks is that his claims about this bill are every bit the “false advertising” for which its title mocks Obama. Johnson claims his bill will “make Obamacare live up to the promises of the politicians who sold the plan to the American public.” But Johnson can no more guarantee people’s insurance plans than Obama could. And if he’s so concerned about Obama’s campaign promises, why not pass the “Your Health Care Plan Will Cost $2500 Less Than It Used To” Act?
The question answers itself.
When doctors begin retiring or enrolling in disability en masse due to EHRCSD (Electronic Health Record Compliance Stress Disorder), will Johnson propose the “If You Like Your Doctor You Can Keep Him” Act to exempt them from compliance?
Republicans would be foolish to collaborate with the liberal presumption that the federal government can pass laws that dictate market consequences. All this bill does is heap another contradiction and more arrogance into a 2700 page mix of illogic and caprice.
It also fails the “fairness” test. Why should certain people have their plans “grandfathered in” anyway? Because Obama said so? That results in two classes of people – one that gets screwed by Obamacare and a few lucky others. When democrats pass a minimum wage increase, it applies to all employees, not just new ones. Even though many get priced out of a job, politicians have never said, “If you like your job, you can keep it.”
Planning at the outset to minimize disruption is a proper conservative mindset, but that ship sailed a long time ago, no? Obamacare has and will continue to disrupt the health care market, and trying to protect a few people here and there is a fool’s errand. Johnson’s bill is simply another exemption for a politically sympathetic group. It ignores equality before the law, and reinforces what Mark Steyn calls Obamacare’s “Hierarchy of Privilege”.
Ted Cruz received a great deal of flak from his fellow Republicans, who said his goal was unrealistic, and his plan had no chance of success. But what is Senator Johnson’s end goal here? What strategy is he executing that has a chance of success? Maybe Cruz was throwing a Hail Mary, but Johnson’s effort is the equivalent of kicking a field goal while down 28-0 in the fourth quarter just because you want to avoid a shutout.
And proposing a bill called the “If You Like Your Health Care Plan You Can Keep It Act”, when no politician can guarantee anything of the sort? That just strikes me as intellectual dishonesty.