You know, this would be sad if it wasn’t so funny. Since the day that the federal government gave out the first freebie to the public the rule has been common knowledge. Once the public starts to suckle at the treasury teat, you can never take it away again, they’ll just squeal so loudly you have to give it back. Which exposes the GOP crusade to repeal Obamacare for the joke that it always was, they all knew the rule.
For 7 years when Obama was the President, the Republicans tried 70 different times to ctrl-alt-del Obamacare, knowing they were safe because it would never happen. Even if they got it through both the House and the Senate, Obama was sure to veto it, and there was no way they could scrape an override together. Which was fine with them since “repeal and replace” was a bumper sticker slogan, and not actual policy. But then The Tangerine Tantrum got elected, and his first order of business was to try to carry through on by far and away the dumbest, dumber than even the damn wall, campaign slogan of the bunch. And now the Republicans are in deep fecal matter.
Since they couldn’t beg, borrow, or steal their way into a full out “repeal and replace”, they settled for second best. They basically tried to neuter the law by repealing the individual mandate, the thing that brings in enough younger, healthier people to make it economically feasible for insurance companies to offer policies on the exchanges, knowing there will be some people who won’t use all of their premiums in payouts to help support those who use more than they pay. But the individual mandate provision in the tax bill just took a good chunk of those young, healthy people away, and guess who’s going to have to pay for it?
It was reported last night on MSNBC that in the 2018 open enrollment period, just under 9 million people signed up through the exchanges. This was much higher than expected, especially if you factor in cutting the enrollment period in half, reducing the number of enrollment counselors, and cutting ACA advertising by 90%. The study showed that four states, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia enrolled almost 1/3 of the total number who signed up this cycle. These are all states that Trump won last November, and it can be safely assumed that many of those participants are Trump supporters. And therein lies the crux of the dilemma for the GOP, and Trump.
Yesterday afternoon, MSNBC political analyst Elise Jordan perfectly laid out why this Obamacare obsession is so disastrously self destructive for the GOP. The law is scheduled to take effect on January 1, it will not cause any changes to rates, services or premiums for 2018. But the Republicans are already sailing into a strong wind heading into the hurricane that 2018 is projected to be. And, thanks to this provision of the tax act, guess what will happen next October, one short month before the general election? The insurance companies are going to announce their rates for the upcoming year, which are almost certain to contain stiff, likely double digit increases in premiums as insurers try to recoup taking it in the shorts in 2018 by young, healthy people letting their policies lapse in the first couple of months of the year. For voters, any residual case of the warm-and-fuzzies left over from a few extra bucks in their paychecks will be snowed under by the outrage at the increases of their healthcare premiums for 2019. And guess who will gleefully be there to remind them of exactly whom they can blame for their skyrocketing healthcare costs? Democrats of course.
Right now there are only two possible paths available to the Republicans, and they’re boned no matter which they choose. One, they leave the system exactly as it is, and take their lumps. They will almost certainly lose the House, and quite possibly the Senate as well. And if rates rise again in 2019, as they likely will, the only Republican stupid enough to let his name be on the ballot for President in 2020 may be numbnuts himself. Or two, McConnell can let Murray and Alexander go back to work and hammer out real, substantive fixes to shore up both the markets and bring premiums under control by codifying the CSR subsidies, taking that toy away from the Tiny Thumbs Diktator. This will enrage the GOP House caucus, for whom the destruction of the ACA is the goal, not its salvation. Ryan will have no choice but to call it to the floor and pass it with strong Democratic support, sending his own caucus into a pirhana like feeding frenzy. Little wonder he’s seriously considering blowing that pop stand after 2018, his own caucus will be bringing pitchforks and torches out into the well of the House.
Both as individuals, and as a species, we are never dumber than when we let ourselves be ruled by blind hatred and revenge. And in their bind hatred of all things Obama, the GOP have finally figuratively fallen on their own sword. The only question is whether they will roll over onto their side, pull the sword out, and try to patch the hole, or lay there and writhe in self delusional glory. Either choice may well prove to be fatal, but the choice itself will show just how deep their wellspring of hatred truly is. We shall see.