I would not be surprised to see Democrats join majorities in the House and Senate voting to repeal Obamacare within the next year. My reasoning is stated below.
Members of Congress are forced to think about their constituents and the next election. If Obamacare puts them in danger with their voters, members of Congress will break with their party and their President. Already we are seeing this, with vulnerable Senate Democrats supporting the Landrieu bill and 39 House Democrats voting for Rep. Upton’s “Keep Your Plan” bill. This movement will accelerate, as the negative aspects of Obamacare (and the electoral reality for Democratic members of Congress) get much worse over the coming year.
The current tremors are being caused by the website, the cancellation of policies that people like, and the loss of doctors that people like. But, the biggest timebomb for Obamacare (sticker shock) hasn’t hit yet. When it does, candidates from both parties—following the will of the People—will aggressively rip into Obamacare.
The President often promised that Obamacare would bend the cost curve downward. Beyond some sound, but minor, changes to Medicare payments (i.e., not paying for hospital-caused infections and redos), the President’s promise, of course, is not true. Math also applies to politics. It is not possible to layer insurance policies with Cadillac protections, allow adults to stay on parents’ plans, and remove all pre-existing condition provisions, and—simultaneously—reduce costs. The “keep your plan” lie damaged the President. The second big lie—reduced costs—will damage him more.
It took quite a storm to convince non-Republicans to take a close look at the actual workings of Obamacare. But, with his credibility already in question, non-Republicans will more willingly scrutinize the President’s cost-related promises.
The pledge in the President’s cost-bending magic trick was that health insurance costs would go down for lots of people (i.e., sicker people). That accomplishment would receive lots of attention, so that the reality of other people (i.e., healthier people) subsidizing that reduction would be lost on the broader audience. However, for 2 reasons, that magic trick now won’t work.
First, the media now will provide closer scrutiny of the magician. Even Ezra Klein and Dana Millbank are now applying some scrutiny to the President. For a magic trick to work, people have to buy the pledge and be diverted in its false direction. But, the media actually will report on the increased rates at this point.
Second, the President is undercutting his own trick by significantly ramping up the pain that non-beneficiaries will feel. To disguise the fact that many people are harmed by Obamacare, there has to be a louder celebration of those helped by Obamacare. We saw this strategy when the Administration (and Ezra, Dana, and other sycophants) first tried to shrug off policy cancellations by saying they only affected a small minority of Americans. But, in that case, the diversion fell flat and the trick was revealed because there was an even smaller group of people who were helped.
By continuing to exempt people from joining the exchanges (i.e., first it was businesses, and now it is individual policyholders), the ratio of expensive v. cheaper policyholders will be skewed toward more expensive policyholders. The subsidy factor will be altered, and the product will be move expensive. Thus, everything that the Administration is doing to mask the current pain will only amplify the pain in the future.
Insurance companies will have to determine rates for 2015. They will announce those rates shortly before the 2014 elections. And the rates—factoring in the pools that have been skewed toward sicker, more expensive policyholders—will jump significantly. The office of every single member of Congress will do this math over the next few months, and will know the sticker-shock storm that is headed their way. They will work to distance themselves from it.
The President will work to bully, cajole, or charm them to stick with Obamacare, but they will know that the ship is sinking and that the President isn’t strong enough to help them. His credibility will be damaged much more than it currently is.
To see how his credibility will continue to sink, look at last week’s press conference. Because his credibility was damaged and he had to do something regarding policy cancellations, the President announced that insurers could continue to offer plans that only the week before his team had deemed “substandard.” Why? As he admitted in answering Major Garrett’s question, the point of the maneuver “is to be able to say to these folks, you know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan.”
It wasn’t about a real fix. It was about fixing blame. But, with the magician’s pledge being broken and increased scrutiny being applied, it is apparent to observers that insurance companies can’t redo 3 years of modeling and projections in a week or two. The President only tossed out more disinformation and false hope. So, the media is reluctantly reporting that the ploy to restore credibility actually was just another lie.
Lawmakers get it wrong at times. Believe me, after 13 years in the legislature, I get that. When the public thinks that a law stinks and demands that it be changed, it gets changed. Votes that constituents loathe are not defensible. Especially when things get really bad and the public gets really worked up over an issue, representative democracy moves elected officials, even members of Congress, to do their bidding. Obamacare was sold on several false promises. As the tricks are revealed over this next year, the People will demand that it be repealed, and members of Congress will oblige.
The President would veto a repeal, and I doubt that the Senate would override a veto before 2014. But, if the 2014 elections are a bloodbath for Democrats, the next Congress would vote to repeal Obamacare and might even override a veto.