November 14 2013

Democrats: Sorry, Mr. President, We Don't Want to Be Your Human Shields

Charlotte Hays

Senator Mary Landrieu’s If I Like My Job, I Can Keep My Job bill is gathering Democratic support.  

Of course, Ms. Landrieu’s bill is actually named the Keeping the Affordable Care Promise Act, but we’re not fooled: this move is all about saving the jobs of Landrieu and like-minded Democrats who parroted the president’s “incorrect promise” about health insurance. Whether you get to keep your doctor or not, they want to keep their jobs.

Leaving aside the other humorous aspect—first you pass a massive bill, and then three years later you pass a bill promising to obey that bill—we have enjoyed watching the vulnerable flock to Ms. Landrieu’s standard. The Wall Street Journal explains what is happening with a felicitous turn of phrase: many Democrats are no longer willing to serve as “human shields” for President Obama and his signature piece of social engineering.

But Democrats will be Democrats, even if panicked that they’ll soon have to either go back to the sticks or get a cushy lobbying job. Democrats love mandates. They are, indeed the party of mandates. Thus, as the Journal also notes felicitously, Ms. Landrieu’s proposed fix—yet another mandate—is coercive. This coerciveness makes it close kin to ObamaCare, which is what got them into trouble in the first place. The Wall Street Journal notes in an editorial:

[The Landrieu bill] would order insurers to continue to offer the dumped plans that in many cases no longer exist. This is also a substantive due process violation for business and unconstitutional commandeering of state regulators.

Yep, Democrats continue to think you can just order people to do things. It's in their DNA. The sign-up numbers for ObamaCare indicate that this isn’t the case: sometimes a free people exercise their freedom and refuse to hop to it and do exactly what Big Government orders them to do.

The Republicans in the House have a more modest bill to try to help people who are losing their health insurance policies. But it has problems, too:

The [Republican] Keep Your Plan Act is poorly titled. Nearly all 2013 plans cannot be renewed next year even in the absence of federal obstacles. Insurers obeyed the law, and unlike the feds they prepared competently for years for ObamaCare's debut.

They thus shut down the plans they were told to shut down and set new rates in expectation of the new rules and mandates—a complex process that takes months to plan, negotiate with doctors and hospitals and earn state approval. Reinstating plans, to the extent possible, would be difficult to price amid the insurance market convulsions ObamaCare is causing.

Still, the GOP bill is superior to the Landrieu bill:

[I] nsurance regulation was largely a state obligation before ObamaCare, and the GOP bill is a useful federalist housekeeping. Insurance commissioners in states with refugee crises in their individual markets could work with the companies they regulate to make a stopgap accommodation. …

House Republicans have the better argument. There's a substantive difference between letting people keep their plans through deregulation and through a new mandate that is supposed to counteract the damage from the old mandates. They should build on this insight and promote more ways for people to elude ObamaCare if they prefer.

To the extent Republicans can, at the state and federal level, they should try to revitalize and improve the old individual insurance market as one escape route. If Republicans want to get ambitious, they could even propose redistributing the government's existing health-care subsidies instead of other people's income. The tax benefit for employer-based insurance totals about $250 billion in foregone revenue a year, but individuals get no such subsidy.

Republicans have an opportunity to poach the health-care issue that liberals have dominated for decades. Amid the rollout debacle, the polls show Democratic credibility and trustworthiness are in free fall, and voters may be open to innovative market reforms. Health choices and incentives are no longer abstractions but tangible things consumers are losing.

Instead of a backward-looking promise to let Americans hold on to what they had, Republicans could offer the opportunity to buy a new plan that they like.

Some have suggested that, if laws making inroads into ObamaCare are passed, the Affordable Care Act will be repealed de facto. I have to say that I believe that genuine repeal remains necessary. It’s a mess. It’s on the books. We still don’t fully know what’s in it. We need to repeal it.

Meanwhile, however, let’s give Ann Coulter the last word this morning:

To speak to a Nigerian prince about your health care, press “1” now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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