Opinion

Progressives Do Not Grasp The Politics Of Health Care

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

Lewis K. Uhler and Peter J. Ferrara National Tax Limitation Foundation

Last month, when House Republicans passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare, Democrats broke out in song and dance on the House floor, serenading Republicans for their successful vote with the words from a famous song, “Nah Nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey, Goodbye.”

Really? Democrats and “progressives” lost three successive national elections because they passed and obstinately stood with Obamacare, and now Republicans are going to be thrown out for repealing and replacing it?

Obamacare was first enacted into law in March 2010.  That fall, Democrats lost a New Deal (in reverse) size landslide when Republicans gained 63 seats in the House.  That removed Nancy Pelosi as Speaker and replaced her with her intellectual antithesis: policy guru Paul Ryan. Republicans have increased their House majority ever since.

In 2014, Republicans seized control of the Senate, winning 9 seats for a 54 to 45 Republican majority.  That Republican control will likely continue for many years, as 25 seats held by Democrats – more than half of all remaining Senate Democrats – are up for reelection in 2018, 10 in states won by Trump.  With only 8 Republican Senate seats up in the next midterms, there is now a greater chance of Republicans winning a filibuster proof majority – 60 seats – next year, than of Democrats winning a Senate majority, especially given Democrat positions on the issues.

In 2016, Democrats suffered their greatest shock – loss of the White House to political newcomer Donald Trump.  No one who had never been previously elected to any office had ever won the Presidency, except generals who had led America to victory in major wars (Washington, Grant, Eisenhower).

The silly notion that Senate Republicans are at political risk because they repealed/replaced Obamacare is adamantly echoed by the Democrat Party controlled media.  That is all the more ridiculous because the Republican bill actually makes good on all the failed promises Obama Democrats made to win enactment of Obamacare in 2010:

President Obama famously said that under his Obamacare legislation, “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. Period.” But even Democrat controlled media labelled that the “lie of the year.”  It turned out that if Obama liked your health plan you could keep your health plan. Millions of Americans lost healthcare plans they were perfectly happy with, because their plans did not include cover all the Obamacare required benefits that Democrats think health insurance should cover.  The Republican bill repeals both the individual and employer mandates, liberating workers to choose the health plan they prefer.

Obama promised that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. But as working families lost their health plans, they often lost their doctors too, especially as insurers – struggling under all the Obamacare mandates and regulations – restricted coverage to narrow networks of doctors and hospitals. Under the Republican plan, by contrast, working families are free to choose a health plan that includes their doctor.

Obama promised that health insurance premiums would decline under Obamacare by $2,500 per year per family. But instead, health premiums have soared by much more than $2,500 per year as a result of all the taxes and regulatory costs Obamacare imposes, nearly doubling in some states. By repealing those taxes, mandates and regulatory costs, the Republican plan will substantially reduce health insurance premiums. So will the insurance market competition the Republican plan engenders.

Obamacare did not even achieve universal coverage, as Obama misled Progressives to think.  From the beginning, CBO projected 30 million Americans would remain uninsured 10 years after Obamacare was fully implemented. Most of those who gained coverage under Obamacare did so through expansion of Medicaid, an entitlement program financed entirely by taxpayers.

While CBO has not yet scored the just passed House Republican bill, the score of the initial bill showed that it would reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion (almost all entitlement spending), cut taxes by $900 billion, and reduce federal deficits by over $300 billion.  If you add trillions in reduced regulatory costs, any bill close to that would involve the greatest reduction in government in American history, providing a strong boost to the economy.  That would be enormously popular with grassroots Republicans, Independents and even blue collar Democrats.

The sole political risk to Republicans is if they fail to enact a “repeal and replace” bill, which would cause enormous intraparty strife.  Even more danger lurks if Senate Republicans agree to Democrat Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s demand to sit down and negotiate a plan Democrats think would fix Obamacare, rather than replace it with free market solutions such as choice and competition.

The focus among Senate Republicans should be to ignore the instincts of Northeast Senate RINOs to water down the House bill, keeping spending, taxes, deficits, and regulatory costs high enough to undermine any economic recovery, and the future of the American dream. Republicans instead need to follow Speaker Paul Ryan’s “Jack Kemp” vision to maximize freedom and prosperity for all Americans.

Lew Uhler is Founder and President of the National Tax Limitation Committee and the National Tax Limitation Foundation (NTLF). He was a contemporary and collaborator of both Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman. Peter Ferrara is a Senior Fellow at the Heartland Institute, and a Senior Policy Advisor to NTLF. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.