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 A majority of Americans dislike the law and want it repealed.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.