Democrats' Plan for ObamaCare Left Out an Important Detail: Republicans


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas) is, ah, kind of upset with Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.). That's because Baucus, who has claimed authorship of the Finance Committee health care bill that became the basis for ObamaCare, and was a big booster of the law both before and after passage, now seems rather concerned that the implementation process has gone awry. The Montana Senator warned yesterday of a "huge-train wreck" coming as the law's major coverage provisions kick in at the end of the year.

In response, Rep. Pompeo has released a harshly worded letter to Baucus that basically amounts to the congressional version of Adam Sandler's endlessly useful Wedding Singer line about "things that could have been brought to my attention YESTERDAY!"  

"Unless you act before it's too late, the American people are going to hold you personally responsible for the failings of this law that negatively impact their jobs, their health, and their families," the letter says. "You drafted it, you twisted arms to get it passed, and, until now, you have lauded it as a model for all the world." There's more, but you get the idea.

The law's supporters are, of course, going to attempt to blame Republicans for its failures—noting, for example, that most Republican governors have declined to implement the law's exchanges, and that Republicans in Congress have not gone along with Democratic requests to top off funding for implementing the law. This is self-evidently silly.

For one thing, ObamaCare was a wholly Democratic creation: Democrats wrote it, passed it, and are now in charge of implementing it. For another, many of the failures aren't directly linked to Republican obstructionism. The delay of the employee choice aspect of the small-business exchanges, for example, appears to be a result of a combination of slow regulatory rollout from the Obama administration and overburdened insurance companies. It's even hard to blame (or credit, as the case may be) Republican governors for trouble with the exchanges; after all, the law was written—by Democrats—to give every governor the choice to either set up an exchange or let the federal government do so. If the law wasn't going to work if some governors opted out, then the fundamental problem is bad legislation, not political opposition.

As for political opposition, Democrats failed to account for that too. It's bad policy design to build and pass a law that relies on the assent of a determined political opposition in order to work. Republicans elected officials made it pretty clear from the beginning that they opposed the law and that they were going to continue to oppose the law; and arguably they had a small-d democratic responsibility to do so: Republican voters have always been quite wary of the health law.  Democrats never really had a plan to deal with Republican opposition to ObamaCare, except to hope it went away. That was a pretty stupid plan. And Democrats deserve responsibility for going with it.