This morning, Jonathan Chait attacked the conservative movement for its delusional belief that Obamacare is going to be such a terrible thing that even liberals will soon call for its repeal. We always see an outbreak of this kind of triumphalism with each new poll that comes out that shows that most people don’t like Obamacare. Of course, those same people very much like most of the aspects of Obamacare. And I’m not certain we should be too concerned what the public thinks when 40% of them think that Obamacare has been repealed already.
Chait references an article by Ramesh Ponnuru in which he tried to convince conservatives that they might want to stop assuming Obamacare is going to be a catastrophe (at least in the short term). I quite agree with both gentlemen on this issue. What’s more, I really don’t see where the conservatives are coming from. Obamacare will primarily affect those people who do not now have health insurance. They may not like the new system, but I suspect the fact that they are getting health insurance will swamp any bad feelings they have about bureaucratic problems.
Where I disagree with Chait and Ponnuru is in their thinking about what the Republicans could offer to replace Obamacare. Ponnuru has a silly idea that we can get universal health insurance by providing catastrophic insurance plans. Chait rightly points out that this is just not going to appeal to the nation as a whole. I would go further. Catastrophic insurance, so loved by conservatives, is a terrible idea for the society. It discourages people from getting preventative healthcare, thus increasing the total cost of healthcare for the society. Conservatives talk about controlling healthcare costs, but their only idea is the magical thinking of the free market. And that hasn’t worked here or any other place that I’m aware of.
Chait doesn’t offer a plan the Republicans might propose. That isn’t his job, of course; he’s a liberal. But he notes this:
I don’t think that’s quite it. The truth is that the Republicans have backed themselves into a corner. It is not that alternative plans are hard, it is that they simply don’t exist on the right. When the Republicans decided that their very own Heritage Foundation plan (AKA Obamacare) was something straight from the rotting corpse of Stalin, they effectively gave up on any kind of “free market” approach to healthcare reform. Even Ponnuru’s idea is a marginal plan that will do far more to prevent medical bankruptcy (a good thing) than it does to provide healthcare to the citizenry.
My feeling is that over the years, there will be a lot of problems with Obamacare. But I don’t see it ever being repealed. For one thing, it would hurt doctors and hospitals in terms of their bottom lines. Within 5 years at the most, the conservative complaint against Obamacare itself will disappear. Then the conservatives will start complaining about liberal attempts to change Obamacare to include a public option. There will be no reason not to do that, but you can depend upon the Republican Party decrying that the public option is a Stalinist takeover of healthcare and trumpeting the base Obamacare policy as the very essence of the free market.