How Obama Is Unwittingly Boosting Republicans

How Obama Is Unwittingly Boosting Republicans

REUTERS/Brian Snyde

They’re back! No, not the Giants -- I mean the Republicans. The GOP has recovered from a remarkable series of fumbles, including the government shutdown, all thanks to Obamacare. President Obama recently lamented damage from the sequester. He sounded like a history professor. Seriously, that is so last polling cycle.

Obamacare has grabbed the nation’s full-front attention. The disgraceful roll-out, the higher premiums, the dropped coverage – it’s all anyone is talking about. Republicans, who suddenly look a little less crazy, should rejoice; through no fault of their own, they’re back in the game. How can this be?


Possibly, the president and his fellow Democrats over-promised. Obamacare was so bally-hooed, so lauded as the glittering cornerstone of Obama’s “legacy,” that Americans naturally held high expectations. After all, the president promised…well, we know what he promised. Three-year-olds could probably recite Obama’s mantra that “if you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep-your health-care plan. Period.”

Turns out that claim was just a big old whopper. Other falsehoods are beginning to emerge. I will personally guarantee that the program will cost more than expected; poor Jay Carney two years from now will be trying to explain how budget overruns are somehow the fault of Republicans. Why so sure? Because the central assumptions are faulty.

You can’t offer free healthcare to 30 million Americans without it costing an arm and a leg. Someone has to pay for this expansion of our safety net. Americans have hoped from the get-go that it would be their neighbor footing the bill. Now they’re finding out the obvious truth -- everyone will pay – with higher premiums, higher taxes and less generous coverage.

You can’t have insurance that isn’t insurance – that ignores reality, such as old people needing more medical services than young people, women costing more than men, “pre-existing conditions” being a deal-breaker. You can’t eliminate the profit motive and expect private enterprise to function. There’s a reason that insurance companies are cherry-picking where they participate.

United Healthcare, the largest insurer in the country, has entered only 12 states, Cigna only five. According to a Credit Suisse report, more than half of U.S. counties are currently served by only one or two insurers So much for expanded competition. And for bringing prices down.

You know the skies have darkened when even Paul Krugman is falling out of love with Obamacare. In a recent op-ed he decries the complexity of the health-care law, suggesting that it would be much easier if the entire country were simply on Medicare. As he suggests, if we eliminate insurers as the go-betweens, and ask the government to pay all healthcare expenses, life becomes much simpler. What a super idea! Why didn’t those brainiacs in the White House think of that? Krugman has the obvious answer; he faults politics, and especially those loathsome people who are “fundamentally hostile to the notion of the government helping people.” That’s why Obamacare isn’t beautiful – the Republicans and their heinous ideology.


Mr. Krugman argues that Medicare is “enormously popular.” He can’t understand why the government program shouldn’t be extended to everyone. For one thing, it would mean you wouldn’t have to shop for insurance – such a bother – and another great plus is that you would not “have to provide lots of personal details.” You just show up, prove you’re an American (though Mr. Krugman would likely disapprove of that requirement) and voila- free medical care! What stands between our citizens and this panacea? Easy- “the power of the insurance industry and the reluctance of workers who currently have good insurance though their employers to trade that insurance for something new.”

Really, Mr. Krugman must be on a raft in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Maybe he’ll bump into Robert Redford. How could he not know that Medicare is in trouble, that in fact the gloomy outlook for the massive entitlement program was a central theme of the last presidential campaign?  That doctors are declining Medicare patients as reimbursement costs drop. That fraud is rampant.

The latest trustee report showed Medicare ran a $37 billion deficit last year, and that the trust fund will be depleted by 2026. It would be sooner but the report assumes that cost cutting mandates, like lower reimbursement rates for doctors -- what the Simpson-Bowles Commission described as “phantom cuts” - will actually take place.

No, not even Mr. Krugman is this out to lunch. His problem is that he has thrown himself into being an Obamacare booster, no holds barred. When the launch went awry, he blamed high volume and claimed it was a promising sign, sounding very much like the White House.

In another recent column he blasted the GOP for their resistance and wrote that Republicans don’t understand the Affordable Care Act. He writes that Obamacare is “coherent and fairly simple”, and that “it’s going to work.” He warns that Republicans who opposed the law “would pay a large personal price.”

We’ll see.