Sebelius is on her way out the door. One might think this would help Democrats turn a corner on health care, but don’t count on it. President Obama’s pick to succeed Sebelius – Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell — could face a brutal confirmation process, because she is his first and potentially only nominee to ObamaCare’s “death panel“: the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The last time senators suspected an Obama nominee of wanting to exercise IPAB-style powers over health care — i.e., Don Berwick’s ill-fated nomination to run Medicare and Medicaid — it was such a bloodbath that Democrats were afraid even to hold a vote. And Burwell would wield far more power than senators feared would fall into Berwick’s hands. By accepting Sebelius’ resignation, President Obama has given Republicans a weapon to use against vulnerable Democratic senators, and created more problems for the White House than if he had asked her just to stay put.
A White House official says HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is resigning from the Obama administration.
The move comes just a week after the close of the rocky enrollment period for President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. Website failures marred the opening weeks of the six-month enrollment period, but the administration rebounded strongly by enrolling more than 7 million people in health insurance plans.
Jim Capretta and Ramesh Ponnuru, in separate pieces, offer some gentle truth telling about Obamacare. It’s not going to implode of its own inherent economic faults anytime soon. Ponnuru: “The law will continue to be implemented, with the administration making whatever revisions it thinks necessary.”
And even if Republicans gain control of the White House and Congress, there are limitations to what a GOP president would do. For instance, maybe President Rand Paul would decide to disallow the federal health exchange from paying premium credits to 10 million Americans. As Capretta puts it, “A reversal of this kind would be politically tumultuous, to put it mildly.” Adds Ponnuru: “It seems unlikely that Congress would pass legislation to strip coverage from millions of people.”
Supporters of Obamacare see the enrollment numbers as more evidence that the law is here to stay. Of course, those numbers don’t give us any reason to think that the law will do a lot of good at a reasonable price, or that its basic structure can be modified to pass that test. But the supporters are right that meeting the target of 7 million enrollments will make repealing and replacing the law harder.
The likelihood of replacement would be higher if there was an alternative that didn’t take away people’s insurance — one that promised to cover roughly as many people as Obamacare does, or even more. Letting people on Medicaid buy into the market by converting much of the program into tax credits, for example, would be more viable than just kicking its new beneficiaries off the rolls.
The extension isn’t that surprising, given past government rollouts of legislation this vast in scope — and the Affordable Care Act’s own history of deadline fudging. The increasing frequency of extensions also shows that the Obama administration learned an important lesson from Healthcare.gov’s debut: “Slow and steady wins the race” is a better adage for them than “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.” Here’s a history of Obamacare’s generous extension policy and how everyone reacted.
Six Senate Democrats Thursday unveiled proposals to make changes in the Affordable Care Act, the health care law under fire from conservatives and Republicans. Two senators, Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, are considered among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats this year as they face tough re-election efforts.
Joining them in proposing new ideas for the health care law are Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Mark Warner, D-Va., Angus King, Ind.-Maine and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Expanded Consumer Choice Act (S. 1729) (Sens. Begich, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Warner, Manchin, King…Provides a new lower cost, high-deductible option called the Copper Plan, in addition to the existing Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze options in the marketplace that would give consumers more control over their own coverage, spur competition, and, most importantly, increase affordability. The new Copper Plan would meet the essential benefits laid out by the Affordable Care Act
The ineffectiveness of the individual mandate is trumped only by its unpopularity. Two-thirds of Americans support getting rid of the individual mandate completely, according to a recent ABC News poll. This month, the House of Representatives voted again to delay enforcement of the individual mandate for a year, with support from 27 Democratic defectors.
The Obama administration already has been forced to delay, drop or revise a host of other requirements in the law, such as the employer mandate, minimum benefits standards, and nondiscrimination rules. Until now, the White House has refused to delay or repeal the unpopular individual mandate because it was supposed to hide the full “on-budget” costs of ObamaCare. Its architects hoped that the mandate could force millions of Americans to pay for the law’s expensive coverage and cross subsidies through higher premiums instead of higher taxes. But they always lacked sufficient political support to try to make the mandate powerful enough to accomplish this.
Expect the mandate to turn into even more of a “suggestion” before votes are cast in this November’s congressional elections. With the mandate illusion off the table, the Affordable Care Act can no longer hide what it truly is: another unfunded liability for taxpayers.
Many major pollsters include a question about repeal in their periodic surveys. Reports from the nonpartisan RealClearPolitics and the conservative American Enterprise Institute, both institutions that cover politics, don’t match up with Rubio’s claim. These averages across polling platforms are useful, but they also draw from a small number of polls and combine results from a question each group asked in a slightly different way.
RealClearPolitics shows that in December 2013, about 52.3 percent of the public favored repealing the law. Since 2011, that number hasn’t wavered much.
RealClearPolitics arrived at these figures by averaging reports from Quinnipiac, Rasmussen, Fox and CNN surveys.
American Enterprise Institute included a broader swath of polls in their analysis, which ended up making for a much lower aggregate. Senior fellow Karlyn Bowman said she’d peg the repeal rate at anywhere between 35 to 45 percent, depending on the poll.
Although the numbers vary based on question wording and possible responses, the trends themselves don’t, experts said. The percentage of the country that wants to repeal Obamacare is sizable, but not growing.
“If you look poll to poll, it’s not clear that they’re rising dramatically, but it’s still a big number and something people should pay attention to,” Bowman said. “Repeal sounds radical, and we’re just not a very radical kind of people. We like to take the middle ground if possible.”
The prospects for a permanent doc fix prior to the March 31 deadline are looking increasingly remote. No agreement has been reached on how to pay for a permanent repeal and replacement of Medicare’s unpopular sustainable growth-rate formula for physician payments.
The House plans to vote for a patch this week, according to a source familiar with discussions, although it remains uncertain how long a period it will cover. Previously, the House approved a Republican-sponsored bill to pay for repeal by delaying the individual mandate for five years—a nonstarter for Democrats. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the House bill would cost $138 billion over 10 years and result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance coverage.
Yet Mr. Jolly didn’t win with conservatives alone. Nearly 30% of voters in the 13th district are unaffiliated with a party, and some polls have shown independents are disinclined to “repeal” the health law. This is the basis of the Democrats’ “fix-it” argument, which Ms. Sink flogged.
But the Republican never ran on repeal alone. Many of the conservative ads against Ms. Sink in fact never mentioned “repeal.” As Mr. Jolly’s website noted, he was in favor of replacing ObamaCare with “private sector solutions that address very specific problems in the health insurance industry.” He spoke about some of these reforms, including allowing Americans to decouple their health care from their employer. He noted that the GOP “simply cannot be the party of ‘no.’” This helped blunt the Sink argument that Republicans are only interested in rolling back the country to the pre-ObamaCare days.
Equally important, the Republican side went on offense against the growing roster of Democratic campaign themes. The party has used them to great effect in any number of recent elections, including most recently in the Virginia governor’s race. The difference this time is that the GOP had answers.