The Most Effective Obamacare Delay is Defunding

There is nothing controversial about stopping Obamacare. A majority of Americans dislike the law and want it repealed. Obamacare is disastrous for individuals, businesses, and doctors alike. It is unaffordable and unworkable, and the Obama Administration has also made it unfair by giving its pet interest groups waivers and opt-outs.

Conservatives are also united behind full repeal of Obamacare, despite what you may hear from the media and liberal operatives. The debate right now is on how this goal is best achieved.

Debate is healthy for society, and also for a movement. Conservatives should not want to become the empty echo chamber that has become the liberal political/media/academic establishment.

With that in mind, let’s turn to the debate over how to save the country from Obamacare. Our view is that the most effective way to delay Obamacare is to cut off funding. Congress can halt Obamacare’s disastrous impact by defunding it entirely before the law’s health insurance exchanges take effect on October 1.

This approach would prevent further implementation of the law; it is the only tactic that fully achieves the objective that advocates of delay seek to accomplish.

Some conservatives believe they can achieve delay without defunding by postponing the individual mandate and employer mandate for one year while leaving firmly in place the massive federal spending on Obamacare’s new health care entitlements—$48 billion next year, and nearly $1.8 trillion over 10 years. Others, acknowledging that a delay of the mandate is insufficient, are now calling for Congress to delay the mandates and the new entitlements.

Both approaches are flawed, however. First, Obamacare is far more than the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and the new entitlement spending. It’s a massive, government-centered restructuring of American health care. A 53-page Obamacare timelinereleased by the House Energy and Commerce Committee shortly after the law passed found that in 2014 alone, 27 separate Obamacare programs and requirements take effect.

Delaying only the mandates and new entitlements, in other words, would leave dozens of other Obamacare programs ready to launch, from additional costly mandates on state Medicaid programs to a new Medicare payment model for community health centers.

Second, merely delaying—as opposed to defunding—the law would allow Obamacare’s regulators to continue their work, strangling the economy by imposing more government red tape. Regulators could continue to enforce the Health and Human Services (HHS) anti-conscience mandate and issue new Obamacare rules raising costs and premiums for struggling businesses and families alike. The way to stop the Red Tape Tower involves full defunding, because it’s the only way to ensure Obamacare’s regulators will cease their destructive work.

Because full defunding will stop all of Obamacare’s programs and all of its new regulations, it is the strongest play for those who want to stop Obamacare cold. Obamacare isn’t just about taxes and subsidies—it is about a series of massive new encroachments created by the federal government. Defunding of Obamacare will ensure that those encroachments cease.

We should not buy into the false assumption that efforts to defund Obamacare equate to a shutdown of the federal government. Heritage and others have pushed for Congress to fully fund regular government operations and separate Obamacare from annual appropriations. But conservatives of either party in Congress have no leverage on any of these critical issues unless the President believes that he will have to assume the responsibility of a government shutdown.

Conservatives want to keep the federal government open. We just want to shut down Obamacare.

Chris Jacobs is a senior policy analyst in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Health Policy Studies. This post originally appeared on the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry.

14 replies »

  1. Have to say that this blog infuriated me. It implies that US healthcare prior to the legislation was something we could be proud of. If that were the case, why the law to begin with? We had 50 million uninsured – and that matters because estimates were that 28,000 people in the US died every year because they had no access to care. it matters financially because the uninsured cost more in the long run to care for when they arrive at Hospital Emergency departments and have to be treated for stroke or heart attack which likely would have been prevented with access to primary care and medication. We had no strategy as a country for managing preventive services and chronic disease – and that matters because preventive services can prevent expensive hospital admissions and keep our population healthy. . The National Council of Aging estimates we currently spend $262 Billion on healthcare service for chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes. We can and must do better. For those not familiar with the full content of the law, there is a significant focus on population health, chronic disease management, and preventive health. The HITECH Act is also married to Obamacare and provides incentives and standards for electronic medical records that will enable us to coordinate care, use best practices, and measure outcomes. Do we really want to revert back to a system where insurance companies can deny coverage to individuals with prior medical problems? For those, who have always had insurance, always have had access to care, always have had access to th best healthcare service the US can offer, I would refer them to the 2014 Commonwealth Fund report, Mirror, Mirror… that evaluated 11 industrialized countries (England, France, Germany, Norway, etc.) and ranked the US last in terms of a wide range of measures used to evaluate healthcare systems. In 2013 we spent $8500 per person in the US on healthcare compared to $3400 in the UK which ranked number 1 overall. Yes, we can repeal Obamacare but we had better have a replacement strategy that addresses the failures of the US healthcare system. I would encourage the author of this commentary to read the entire text of the reform law as well as the 2014 Commonwealth Fund report. Before jettisoning current reform, there must be a defined replacement strategy that addresses the original reasons for reform.

    Here is a link to the Commonwealth Fund Report. I think it will surprise many readers. It was first issued in 2010 and updated in 2014 – it has had a significant impact on my thinking about US healthcare.


  2. What is the definition of threatening to blow up the economy if you demands are not me? My definition would be terrorism.

  3. The reason to demonize the ACA is to demonstrate to the gullible public that social agendas just won’t succeed.The author and his cronies wish to reinstate
    the pre 2010 status.And they will call for more privatization of government programs,many of which are already in the sphere of the private cartel…
    The ACA,also is coined the term “Obamacare”. This is well thought out by the right.Associating his name with it’s failure will aid their agenda for the future and discredit unfairly a decent public servant.

  4. I feel the same about this article as I do about the Robert Reich piece above it. It adds nothing to the value of The Healthcare Blog. It’s tactical political stuff about something that is not going to happen. A waste of time.

  5. Personally, I’d like to see Chris and company over at Heritage answer some of the questions that are being posed in this forum. I have a few of my own.

    John Irvine

  6. “let’s turn to the debate over how to save the country from Obamacare.”

    I’d rather focus on how to save the country from Republicans. Here in NC the country can view a glimpse of what their control of the three levels of government will bring. Suppression of voting rights, public education defunding, private education vouchers, environmental de-regulation, more guns in more places, abortion abolition through the trojan horse of women’s health, tax cuts for the wealthy, cut benefits for the unemployed – oh and banned the use of Sharia Law, in case you were worried.

  7. “Obama will have to assume responsibility for a government shutdown.” What cheek! You’re saying that House Republicans will take the debt ceiling hostage (“Give us what we want or the Government is toast’), and somehow that’s Obama’s fault?

    My refutation regarding “defund,” and blame for shutdown, and default.


  8. “Obama will have to assume responsibility for a government shutdown.” What cheek! You’re saying that House Republicans will take the debt ceiling hostage (“Give us what we want or the Government is toast’), and somehow that’s Obama’s fault?

    Obama cut the deficit in half so we are no where near the debt limit.

  9. Oh brother. What a terrible article. First sentence “There is nothing controversial about stopping Obamacare” – Well, there’s a flat-out lie.

    And the article gets worse from there.

    (This article is utter drivel. The editors would publish this . . . because ??)

    However, I’ll just take a crack at a couple more incorrect statements.

    Second sentence: “A majority of Americans dislike the law and want it repealed.” Nope. Highly misleading. Plenty of Americans dislike the ACA, although many on the right haven’t bothered to understand it. But on the left, plenty of Americans think it didn’t go far enough and want it strengthened. That hardly means folks on the left want it repealed or delayed. So, if you combine the folks who think the ACA is OK and those who want it to be even stronger, you have roughly 60% of America wanting at least this much progress on health policy.

    There’s plenty more to despise in the middle of this execrable essay. Although I disagree with the stated context of the number “$48 billion” let me ask: what’s wrong with spending that much to cover roughly 20 million currently uninsured Americans, at an annual cost of about $2,500 each? America will be spending almost that much on ER and other inefficient care for these folks anyway. America can certainly afford to give health care to its people, as the entire rest of the civilized world has already done.

    Finally, let me scroll to the last sentence: “Obama will have to assume responsibility for a government shutdown.” What cheek! You’re saying that House Republicans will take the debt ceiling hostage (“Give us what we want or the Government is toast’), and somehow that’s Obama’s fault?

    Dear editors: please don’t pollute these generally fine pages with this type of abysmal slag. Publishing lies is not “balanced”; it’s bad.

  10. This article should assure a continuing paycheck for Chris for another month or two. The Heritage Foundation…hahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaahhhhhhahahahahahahahahahahahaahah
    …pause for breath…


  11. Son, you don’t have the votes. Resorting to unconstitutional extortion (threatening federal default) won’t get you there either. You will have to await sufficient votes in Congress.

  12. I miss when the Heritage Foundation simply wasn’t an unabashed mouthpiece and actually put out things worth actually reading even if you viscerally disagreed with them. Even a semi-detailed alternative proposal to Obamacare beyond ‘tax credits’ and a couple of very generic points would be nice for a start.

  13. Just clarifying..would this be the same Heritage Foundation that previously advocated the individual mandate and other key provisions of what became ACA?