The persistence of Obamacare

Republicans have campaigned against Obamacare roughly since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. After the failure yesterday in the House, however, they’re going to get back to us on that. Or the check is in the mail. Or something like that.

Tim Alberta looks “Inside the GOP’s health care debacle.” Philip Klein offers a gimlet-eyed assessment of what just happened in “GOP cave on Obamacare repeal is the biggest broken promise in political history.”

Reihan Salam advises “Don’t blame the Freedom Caucus.” David Catron, however, declares that “The Freedom Caucus saves Obamacare again.”

Ramesh Ponnuru presents the three options facing the House GOP (option 2 to is move on). Kevin Williamson considers “The art of the fumble.”

Here I want to pause over Klein’s review of ancient history:

Republicans ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare for seven years, over the course of four election cycles. They won the House majority in 2010 in large part because of the backlash against the passage of Obamacare — and the vow to “repeal and replace” Obamacare was part of their “Pledge to America” campaign document that year. The botched rollout of Obamacare helped them win the Senate in 2014. House candidates, Senate candidates, gubernatorial candidates, and even state legislative candidates ran against Obamacare — and won.

Though President Trump was always an unorthodox candidate on healthcare (vacillating between praising single-payer and touting a free market plan), he consistently campaigned on repealing and replacing Obamacare, and exploited news of spiking premiums in the weeks leading up to the presidential election.

Republicans were always moving the goal posts on voters. That is, during campaign season, they made boasts about repeal, and then once in office, they talked about procedural complications. In 2010, they campaigned on repeal, but by 2011, they said they needed the Senate. In 2014, they won the Senate, but by 2015 they said as long as Obama was in office, nothing would become law. In 2016, they told conservative voters, even reluctant ones, that if they voted for Trump despite any reservations, they’d finally be able to repeal Obamacare. In November, voters gave them unified control of Washington. And yet after just two months on the job, they have thrown in the towel and said they’re willing to abandon seven years of promises.

I understand the difficulty of repealing a welfare entitlement program. I don’t think it’s ever been done. Yet I foolishly believed the Republicans promising to do away with Obamacare. Shame on them and shame on me. There is plenty of shame to go around. Of shame there is no shortage.

The AEI’s James Capretta and Joseph Antos analyze some of the problems in the legislation that failed and suggest modest improvements. Avik Roy has more along the same lines. These proposals demonstrate the inherent difficulty of the project working within the frame of reference created by Obamacare. I think it’s fair to infer that they aren’t happening.

If shame attaches to Republicans, what about the Democrats? They are, as always, shameless. They celebrate the debacle. Yet the status of Obamacare is inherently unstable. The Hill’s Peter Sullivan and Jesse Heilmann argue that the instability has moderated, but insurers have left the market in droves. Premiums and deductibles first escalated and then skyrocketed.

Now Republicans can plausibly be blamed. If so, to borrow the old formulation, it’s worse than a crime; it’s a blunder.

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