What with all the attention given of late to the likes of Donald Trump and Ben Carson, you may have missed this bit of sad news: Obamacare is dead.
That, at least, is the verdict rendered by Kevin Williamson (National Review Online), who clearly comes not to praise Obamacare but to bury it. Here is my very favorite part of his touching eulogy for the Affordable Care Act:
[Obamacare] creates a deeply perverse incentive structure by combining compulsory coverage of pre-existing conditions with a mandate that is enforced in theory more than in fact. The mandate is necessary to prevent the ruthless exploitation of the preexisting-coverage rules: If insurers have to cover you no matter what, then there’s no point in buying insurance — thereby sharing in the costs — until you are sick enough to need it. As James Freeman reports in the Wall Street Journal, the ACA’s plethora of exemptions — there are at least 30 of them — ensure that a great many people — 12 million last year — will simply opt out. “It is easy to avoid or limit exposure to the penalty with some simple tax planning,” he writes.
So the Obamacare individual mandate, that blatantly unconstitutional and unprecedented act of tyranny against which conservatives fought tooth and nail all the way to the Supreme Court, turns out to be--well, toothless, “enforced more in theory than in fact,” and subject to a “plethora of exemptions”. How ironic!
Williamson no doubt would still maintain that the mandate, enforced or not and easily avoidable as it apparently is, remains an egregious violation of our liberties. I don’t, however, recall him or any of his NRO colleagues pointing out the mandate’s weakness when its legality was being tested in court. I just remember them being concerned that the federal government could make us all purchase (and eat!) broccoli.
So Obamacare is dead, according to Williamson, for a variety of reasons. Not only is the mandate useless, but the so-called “Cadillac tax” (a tax on “high-end” healthcare plans) is being abandoned by Democratic leaders Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, which means that Obamacare will be fatally underfunded (says Williamson). Oddly, Williamson doesn’t mention that Republicans have opposed (and still oppose) both the individual mandate and the Cadillac tax. That saves him from having to admit that such opposition had nothing at all to do with constitutional principles and everything to do with trying to take away as many of Obamacare’s funding mechanisms as possible, in order to undermine the program; a strategy on which numerous Republican governors have doubled down by rejecting the expansion of Medicaid in order to limit the number of people covered by the ACA.
Williamson attributes Reid and Pelosi’s desire to abandon the Cadillac tax as mere political catering to their constituencies, Big Labor (!) in particular. Yet he also claims that “three-fourths [of Americans] oppose Obamacare’s tax on high-end health-care programs”; if that’s the case, why shouldn’t Reid and Pelosi want to repeal it?
Williamson’s eulogy concludes:
[Obamacare has] created a mess that has introduced nothing to American health care except chaos…Right now, the Republicans and the Democrats are two political coroners arguing over what time and cause of death to put on the paperwork; rigor mortis set in long ago.
“Long ago” is obviously a relative term; in this case, since Obamacare has only been fully in effect for two or three years, Williamson apparently believes that it was either still-born or moribund at birth, and that it has been artificially sustained on life supports since then (like the mandate and the tax) until arrangements could be made for a decent burial.
If I were the Obamacare family, I’d ask for a second opinion; and if the ACA's death is ever confirmed--so far, rumors of its demise have proven exaggerated--I sure wouldn’t let Kevin Williamson deliver the eulogy.