April 3, 2014

KNOWING WHAT WE KNEW:

Obamacare Lives! (Ross Douthaut, MARCH 31, 2014, NY Times)

[W]e do know that there won't be an immediate political unraveling, and that we aren't headed for the kind of extremely-low-enrollment scenario that seemed conceivable just a few months ago, or the possible world where cancellations had ended up outstripping enrollment, creating a net decline in the number of insured. And knowing that much has significant implications for our politics. It means that the kind of welfare-state embedding described above is taking place on a significant scale, that a large constituency will be served by Obamacare (through Medicaid as well as the exchanges) in 2016 and beyond, and that any kind of conservative alternative will have to confront the reality that the kind of tinkering-around-the-edges alternatives to Obamacare that many Republicans have supported to date would end up stripping coverage from millions of newly-insured Americans. That newly-insured constituency may not be as large as the bill's architects originally hoped, or be composed of the range of buyers that the program ultimately needs. But it will be a fact on the ground to an extent that was by no means certain last December. And that fact will shape, and constrain, the options of the law's opponents even in the event that Republicans manage to reclaim the White House two years hence.

Such political and policy constraints, I should note, are potentially a good thing for would-be conservative reformers, since the serious right-of-center alternatives to Obamacare have always included policies to expand coverage, and with a coverage expansion accomplished, Republicans may find themselves effectively forced in a more serious direction. (This is a drum that Avik Roy, among others, has been beating for some time.)

We needed a Democrat to pass the mandate so that the future of the entitlement would by conservative.
Posted by at April 3, 2014 7:01 PM
  
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