By Linda Chavez
The conservative push to defund Obamacare has no chance of succeeding as long as Democrats have a majority in the Senate. So why risk alienating voters? The tactics the House leadership has now endorsed may rev up the hard-core base of the GOP, but it could mean election losses next year.
That's the conclusion Karl Rove has reached, according to an op-ed he penned for The Wall Street Journal this week. According to polls his organization conducted, the GOP loses independent voters on the issue of a government shutdown. Rove argues, correctly, that "any strategy to repeal, delay or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively. The defunding strategy doesn't. Going down that road would strengthen the president while alienating independents. It is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it."
So what's the alternative? For many conservatives, the Affordable Care Act is the sine qua non of President Obama's effort to transform America into a socialist state. But the fact is, the law is so unwieldy and its ambitions so unachievable that it might serve its critics better to let the law take full effect and watch it die of its own deficiencies.
The entire premise on which the bill passed was that it would make health care universally available and thus cover the estimated 49 million uninsured Americans. But the premise was always wrong. Given the choice to pay a nominal government fine or buy insurance that costs 10 times more -- at a minimum -- most of the uninsured will remain uninsured.
The key to the law was a provision requiring individuals to buy insurance or pay a fine. But the fines are far less expensive than insurance -- and for many of the uninsured, they will seem the better alternative.
In 2014, unless the president or Congress delays implementation, individuals will have the choice to buy an insurance policy or pay a $95 fine. If you're a low-wage worker, young and healthy, the penalty makes more sense than insurance. Even if you're older and less healthy, you won't be turned away at an emergency room should you need care. So why enroll?
The fines go up each year -- $325 in 2015 and $695 in 2016 and beyond -- but at their highest the fines are about half the cost of the cheapest health care plan. And there are plenty of loopholes to get out of paying the fines. If your income falls below the threshold of filing for federal income tax, you're exempt. You also can seek a hardship waiver from the secretary of health and human services. And if you're one of the 11 million illegal immigrants living here, you don't have to buy insurance.
I'm going out on a limb here, but I predict that two years into implementation of the law there will still be in excess of 30 million people uninsured under this plan. But the problems for those who already have insurance will be even worse.
Premiums are bound to go up significantly. The law mandates coverage for pre-existing conditions and requires insurers to pay for procedures and services they previously had the discretion to withhold or charge more for, which makes providing health care to the insured more expensive. The only way to hold costs down is to bring younger, healthier people into the system. But those are the very people most likely to pay the fines rather than pay exponentially more for insurance.
Obamacare is a house of cards just waiting to fall of its own weight. As unhappy as Americans are now at the prospect of Obamacare, just wait until they have to live under it. Even Democrats will be pushing to rewrite the law once their constituents feel its full effects. Patience will pay off for the GOP.