What we’re left with is a US health-care system whose engine has been partly disassembled — and a mechanic who doesn’t know how to make his plan for rebuilding it actually work, even as he insists we’re already better off.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page broke the news Wednesday: In a technical bulletin, the Health and Human Services Department carved out new exemptions from the mandate. “In a word,” the Journal writes, “these shifting legal benchmarks offer an exemption to anyone who could conceivably want one.”
The blogs yesterday were disputing that this would work for people who never had insurance — but how can you exempt the once-insured but not those who never had policies? That has, in the words of Betsy McCaughey, “a political shelf life of about 15 minutes.”
Basically, you can avoid paying the “tax” for not having insurance if you’re willing to say you can’t find coverage that you can afford. That might be stretching the facts, but it’s no worse than the truth enhancements that tens of millions of Americans report to the IRS every April 15.
And since the IRS will be enforcing the penalty, you’re probably in the clear as long as your name isn’t Téa Parté.
The mandate delay is, of course, just the latest postponement of a key part of ObamaCare. The natural question is, what’s left?
Plenty — all of it characteristic of this administration:
- A ton of spending ($1 trillion to $2 trillion over 10 years) and new taxes (including the job-killing medical-device tax).
- Massive, unaffordable expansion of an entitlement, Medicaid.
- Regulations nobody can understand, including a bunch that the Obama crew can’t figure out how to make work (at least that’s why they said they postponed the employer mandate) and lots of orders about how your doctor should treat you.
- And a lot of unnecessary culture-war fighting, because the administration needed to pick fights over abortion and birth control in order to scare single women into voting against Mitt Romney. (Thank God nobody’s figured out how to drag gay rights into the equation.)
As is painfully obvious to the millions already injured by the botched repair job.
Still, President Obama’s lawyers told the Supreme Court that the individual mandate is vital to making the whole law work, and they surely meant it. So the suspension of the mandate means the administration has quietly given up on making the thing work, at least for now.
All they’re looking to do is keep the shell in place while they make up talking points about how it really is succeeding, and/or ways to change the subject. They won’t even ask Congress to fix it, because they’d have to admit they had no idea what they were doing in the first place.
Presumably, the plan (to the extent they have one beyond getting past the next election) is to keep the law on the books and let Hillary fix it, hopefully with the help of a Democratic Congress.
Will that strategy work? In Tuesday’s special election for a Florida House seat, the Republican won pretty much just by shouting, “My opponent backs ObamaCare!” On the other hand, Republicans have to learn to talk convincingly about other issues (like jobs) to win back the White House so they can kill this turkey.
Bottom line: This mess is only going to grow worse for the next two years. Try not to get sick before 2017.