Obamacare on life support, but unlikely to die

Joe Biden is rarely right about anything. But he was right when, speaking about Obamacare, he told his boss, “this is a big f—ing deal.”

These days, Biden undoubtedly wishes it we’re a smaller deal. Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal points out that at a fundraiser for North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan, Biden did not mention Obamacare once.

Hagan probably wishes that Obamacare were a dead deal. And Kraushaar argues that this is what it might become. He believes Obamacare is on “life support” and that unless its website is fixed soon, a sufficient number of Democratic legislators will join with Republicans to “scrap the whole complex health care enterprise” and “start over.”

I’m almost certain that this won’t happen, at least not in 2014. There are enough hard core liberals in Congress to sustain a presidential veto of repeal legislation, should it come to that.

Indeed, in a strange way the faulty website may be what keeps Obamacare on life support for quite some time. The administration’s mantra is that website problems are standing in the way of people realizing what a good deal Obamacare is for many of them. Reportedly, some of the major glitches in the system resulted from efforts to highlight the subsidies available under Obamacare.

This mantra holds out hope for congressional Dems that once the website is fixed, Obamacare will become more popular. And the longer the website remains less than fully functional, the longer this line can be maintained.

By now, of course, a great many people have figured out that the website isn’t the only, or even the major, problem with Obamacare. There is also the problem of losing one’s coverage and having to buy an expensive plan with unwanted features. And there is the looming problem of losing one’s doctors.

But the White House has kicked that can down the road — how far we cannot yet tell — with it’s “fix”. It also has had some success in selling the line that only a small percentage of the population was going to lose existing coverage even pre-fix.

So in 2014, we’re more likely to see a drip-drip of bad (from the Democrats’ standpoint) Obamacare news than to experience the kind of avalanche that might cause a stampede to repeal. Under these conditions, many Democrats will feel that a “mend it, don’t end it” line will play better politically than a “oh my God, what did we do” confession of error.

A repeal scenario becomes more plausible after the 2014 election, if Republicans win control of the Senate and make gains in the House. Not only would the math improve, but Obama would be a lame duck. Moreover, bad Obamacare news might reach avalanche status, as employer plans are cancelled en masse.

However, it may take another strong Republican year in 2016, including of course the election of a Republican president, to bring us the of Obamacare repeal. That would be a big f—ing deal.


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