Don't be fooled by the delays, Obamacare won't just go away. It's like a werewolf. You'll need a silver bullet to kill it.
Like most of the rest of conservative America, I thought the delays and retreats and glitches going on one after another with the Affordable Care Act amounted to a one-way ticket to oblivion. I was wrong. We can't just sit on our hands and wait for the wake. We have to make it happen. Obamacare is law.
I had an eye-opening conversation late last week with Dr. Keith Kantor, former chairman of a House of Representatives advisory committee on health care and author of the book "What Matters."Kantor predicted months ago -- ahead of anyone else out there -- that portions of Obamacare would be delayed due to the IRS scandal and potential blowback to Democratic prospects in 2014.
He convinced me -- as if I needed it -- that Obamacare isn't the solution to America's health care crisis; in fact, it's a mounting problem for the national budget, for a confused marketplace and for Americans who are more likely to get stung than covered and cured.
"Obamacare was never enacted to be a solution," Kantor said. "It was enacted politically to try to force rates down, somore people could get insurance and then the government was going to pay for 30 millionpeople and subsidize insurance for the others. This is what governmentalways does, present a political solution to a real-world problem."
The health care crisis, he said, isn't going to be fixed by trying to force insurance companies to cover people they aren't being paid for -- the uninsurable, for example, for whom the money has already run out --and trying to make young people pay higher rates so older people paylower ones -- and, oh, yes, singles pay more to try to make coverage affordable for families.
Wonderful in theory, wonderful to get votes, but the only thing happening is that rates are spiraling up.
"They are doing what I said back in February and March -- start delaying the more unpopular parts of Obamacare," Kantor said of the administration. "First they delayed the main parts of the exchanges, where there was supposed to be a marketplace.
"You were supposed to have seven to 10 policies to choose from and even be able to pick different parts of policies and put them together. Those were delayed a year. Now the exchanges are only going to have one policy in them until October 2014."
A big problem is that reticent insurance companies are beginning to back out. California, always the canary in the mine shaft, lost United Health, Aetna, and Cigna. The Big Three opted out of the Golden State's insurance exchange in May -- first dominoes to fall to Obamacare's less-than-clear implementation.
Here's the rub: As exciting as all these Obamacare clunkerisms sound to so many of us, the law was created -- like a werewolf -- to survive most mortal wounds. There areclauses within it that state if private industry can't come up with a policy the government deems in its discretion meets all the criteria it wants, at a price the government deems is affordable, the administration is allowed to issue its own policy -- no popular vote, no need to get permission from the Senate or House.
Kantor showed me the silver bullet we need to kill Obamacare.
It's simple, really. The silver bullet is a Republican sweep in 2014.
If the GOP keeps the House and takes the Senate, they fire the bullet with perfect aim. If they hold on again in 2016, the shot is fatal, the werewolf is as good as slain. "With that scenario," explained Kantor, "Obamacare likely won't be funded. It's not going to be defeated per se, because that would take supermajorities in both chambers, which is virtually impossible. But a conservative victory means implementationwill keep getting delayed and eventually the law will implode under the weight of the bureaucracy."
On the other hand, if the Democrats take the House and hang on in the Senate, "they will do whatever they want," he warned. "Remember, Obamacare passed without a single conservative or Republican vote. It was a 100 percent Democratic initiative. If they win the House, then Obamacare will just steamroll right through and that's not going to be good for the country."
Win the Senate, keep the House -- that's all the silver-bullet Republicans will need, Kantor stresses.
Incidentally, the Democrats may have delayed their employer mandate, they may have killed long-term care coverage altogether, they may have an overflow of the previously uninsured on a waiting list -- but they haven't done a thing to delay their gimmick for drumming up votes. The latest beats a free phone any day -- it's free health insurance.
"You can sign up for the individual-mandate exchange online, involving one policy," explains Kantor. "Youget tolist your income and nobody's going to check to see if you've been truthful for at least a year. Think how many votes that one will win. If you check box 'A,' you get a $10,000 subsidy, box 'B' a $5,000 subsidy and box 'C' none at all.
"It's checked against your taxes the following year, but by then it's too late. And, besides, we know how efficient the IRS is. It's a really good way to get a vote," said Kantor. That's how political it is."
Big year coming up. Congressional races may never be more important.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.