Ezra Klein is right. In a recent Washington Post column, the left-leaning policy wonk laid plain that the future of ObamaCare is at stake in next week’s elections. If President Obama wins and Democrats hold the Senate, the Affordable Care Act will survive. If Mitt Romney wins and Republicans take the Senate, the law is dead. It is the starkest of differences.
How likely is each scenario? At this moment Democrats have the advantage. According to Real Clear Politics, the president is running slightly ahead in six out of ten battleground states. He could actually lose seven of these, but still be reelected if he hangs onto Ohio, Wisconsin, and Iowa.
While key Senate races have tightened, such as Tommy Thompson in Wisconsin, Democrats have a slight advantage there too. If the elections were held today, Republicans would fall two seats short.
What would this future look like? Implementing ObamaCare would be accelerated. HHS and states will have less than fourteen months to finalize major provisions of the law before they take effect on January 1, 2014.
Thousands of pages of regulation will be released shortly after the election, on everything from IRS rules for employers to essential health benefits to covering pre-existing conditions. It remains to be seen how prescriptive these regulations would be.
State officials will have to submit a blueprint for their insurance exchanges by November 16th. They will need to decide if they will create and exchange and how it will be designed.
They will also have to decide whether to expand their Medicaid programs, and they’ll need to determine essential health benefits and benchmark plans for the insurance options to be sold through their exchanges.
In tonight’s first presidential debate, Governor Romney and President Obama will spend 15 minutes discussing healthcare. This is a perilous topic for both, but whoever wins this debate within the debate will take a big step to winning on November 6th.
The Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare as both candidates now call it, will be center stage. The president will offer his standard defense, saying it helps middle-class families by making insurance more affordable and more secure.
But the president knows a full-throated defense will not work. A majority of Americans have consistently supported repeal since day one.
Rather than defend the indefensible – higher costs, higher taxes, Medicare cuts, government expansion – the president will attack.
First, he will tie together ObamaCare and the reform law Gov. Romney signed in Massachusetts, arguing that they are the same.
Gov. Romney should stipulate that there are some policy similarities between the two, but that the differences are what matter. He can deflect this attack and return the spotlight to the president’s unpopular law by clearly saying:
“I did not raise taxes. You raise taxes by $500 billion.
“I did not cut Medicare. You cut Medicare by more than $700 billion to pay for a new entitlement that the public opposed. Your cuts jeopardize seniors’ access to care.
Once again, the Supreme Court was unsurprisingly surprising. The conventional wisdom was that at least part of the health reform law would be overturned, but in practice the court blessed the status quo we have known for two years: The reform law will continue to be implemented.
It’s the devil we’ve known. Washington will issue more regulations. Insurers will be buried in requirements on coverage and benefits, driving up costs. Physicians will have more oversight and report to the government. Hospitals will see Medicare cuts. Millions of individuals will either get a new federal subsidy for insurance or be enrolled in Medicaid.
States will have more interference from Washington. While the Supreme Court gave them some flexibility on whether to expand their Medicaid programs, states will still be forced to either build a new insurance exchange, like Expedia for health insurance, or have the federal government build it for them.
By upholding the law, the court also left untouched two huge problems looming on the horizon. First, as the law expands coverage there will be a tremendous increase in demand for medical services, but there will not be an increase in the number of doctors, nurses and other providers to deliver care.
Millions of people may have very generous coverage, but they will struggle to find providers to deliver it.
Second, as businesses face requirements in 2014 to offer federally approved health insurance or pay a fine, many companies will do the math and see that paying the penalty is far less expensive than continuing to provide coverage.
Imagine that you’re being required to buy a car. You will have to pay for most of it, but you can’t choose exactly what you want. There are so many restrictions on your options that you’re forced to choose from a few used, four-cylinder, two-door sedans with manual transmissions. And there’s one more catch: If you don’t choose one yourself, the dealer will decide for you.
It’s not an enviable position to be in, but most of us would grudgingly decide that if we have to get one of the cars, it’s better to have a small say in what we get than to have someone else decide for us.
This is the same predicament that many state policymakers find themselves in regarding the creation of health insurance exchanges.
Health insurance exchanges are a key part of the health reform law. Supporters argue that exchanges will provide consumers with valuable information on their coverage options, while at the same time providing stricter regulation of health insurers. They are also the only way people can benefit from the lavish subsidies included in the law.
On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services released a final rule governing the exchanges. The rule sets an ambitious timeline for getting the exchanges up and running in every state by January 1, 2014. Between now and then, states can either build their own exchanges and tailor them as much as federal law will allow or decide not to build exchanges at all.
But there’s a catch: If states don’t build their own exchanges, the federal government will do it for them.
State after state is refusing to implement ObamaCare’s health insurance Exchanges. Republican David Merritt hopes they will “grudgingly decide” to change their minds.
Merritt is a health care adviser to Newt Gingrich. He is also a senior adviser at Leavitt Partners. Leavitt Partners is a consulting firm that makes money by helping states implement ObamaCare. In the Daily Caller, Merritt tries to persuade state officials to help implement a law they oppose.
Merritt begins his pro-Exchange argument like so: “Imagine that you’re being required to buy a car.” Would you rather choose that car yourself, he asks, or would you rather the dealer choose the car? Hmm, good question. I choose Option C: wring the neck of whoever is requiring me to buy a car. Not Merritt, though. He counsels states to choose their own “car.”
There are so many problems with this analogy that it’s hard to list them all. First, as Merritt essentially admits, states would be able to choose from such a narrow range of “cars” that it scarcely makes a difference whether they pick their own or let the feds do it. Second, states would only have to pay for their “car” if they pick it out themselves; otherwise, the feds pay for it. So Merritt is literally urging states to volunteer to pay for a “car” when the feds would otherwise hand them one for free. Finally, he says states should select their own “car” even though “no one knows what a federal [car] would look like.” How can Merritt counsel states to choose Option A if he admits he doesn’t even know what Option B is? Wouldn’t the prudent course be to wait and see? Especially since the Obama administration admits it doesn’t have the money to create Exchanges itself?
Merritt’s hypotheticals don’t make his point, either: