SALT LAKE CITY, July 12, 2013 — As the Affordable Care Act begins to approach its various deadlines for implementation, it becomes evident that the law is deeply flawed.
For instance, the Obama administration recently announced it would delay the implementation of the employer mandate. Then, late last week, HHS quietly reported that it wouldn’t be able to verify eligibility for health care subsidies until 2015.
Both delays violate the letter of the law.
Conservative opponents were voicing concerns that the law did too much, was unwieldly, and created a bureaucracy that couldn’t be tamed. While in 2009 and 2010 they didn’t predict exactly which components of the ACA would break down first, their larger criticisms are being exonerated.
Now, some on the left and in the center of American politics are saying that we might finally have a robust debate about the law. Elspeth Reeve recently wrote in The Atlantic, for instance:
We are now going to have the campaign over Obamacare that we would have had during the 2012 election if anyone but Mitt Romney had been the Republican nominee.
Not so fast.
Mitt Romney and his campaign tried valiantly to bring it up. After the Supreme Court declared the individual mandate a tax, thus rendering it constitutionally permissible, Romney immediately responded, reiterating his intention to “act to repeal Obamacare” on his first day in office. He called it “bad policy and bad law” and listed several reasons why: it made employers less likely to hire, it raised premiums, it forced people out of the preferred health plans, it cut Medicare, it cost too much money, and it gave the government too much to do with citizens’ health care.
Yet the mainstream press dutifully declared that the case was closed.
These were all arguments that opponents of the ACA had been making all along, and continue to make. As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the 2010 midterms, Marco Rubio consistently blasted Obamacare, as did Rand Paul and Mike Lee.
Republican House candidates made repeal of Obamacare a cornerstone of their “Pledge to America.” The arguments against the law have been consistent: it is expensive, it limits choice in the market, it is a disincentive to hiring, and it is unfair to force Americans to buy health insurance.
While the Tea Party was born of a frustration over the 2009 stimulus, it came of age during the town hall debates over Obamacare throughout that summer. It matured during the 2010 midterms that gave the GOP a historic victory, largely in reaction to the passage of Obamacare.
Most of the prominent congressional candidates made repeal of Obamacare central to their candidacy.
Then, in 2012, the GOP nominee for president repeatedly sided with Obamacare’s foes, decidedly.
But the press has largely labeled the Tea Party as nuts. Promoting the Founding Fathers and the Constitution was out of the mainstream, and concerns over excessive government spending was merely latent racism. Romney, perhaps the best apostle for dismantling Obamacare, was wildly caricatured in the media, and never really given a shot to have the debate over the ACA.
During their actual debate, the President and Romney did discuss health care. Romney made the case against it, citing the very things that are becoming apparent now: costs, jobs, and too much bureaucracy.
Media interest in those arguments was fairly tepid, and the four minutes Romney was afforded in prime time was about all we got. It is hard to imagine how anyone could have mounted better arguments. Perhaps more passionate, but not essentially different.
The problems that Obamacare’s critics have consistently pointed out are now manifesting themselves. But we probably won’t have a debate about it. Instead, we’ll have to watch it collapse under its own weight.
And though a debate would result in better policy, at least conservatives will be able to say, “we told you so.”
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