Browsing the blog archivesfor the day Tuesday, April 1st, 2014.


April Fools

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Obama Administration

Have you ever considered that life itself is an April Fool’s joke? That would explain a lot.

Anyhoo — yesterday there was a big rush on the ACA insurance exchange websites, to the point that the system crashed for a while. A few righties couldn’t resist the urge to snark about that, overlooking the fact that, um, the system crashed because boatloads of people were trying to use it.

The signup surge has the Right in denial — it’s their fallback position on everything — and making claims that the Administration is lying about numbers, or else that the people getting insurance are either not paying for it or had insurance anyway. Jonathan Cohn takes apart their arguments. The bottom line is that there has been a huge backlog of people who wanted insurance but couldn’t get it, or who wanted insurance that wasn’t eating a disproportionate amount of their income and now those people are coming forward to use the ACA.

The ever-optimistic Brian Beutler thinks the ACA battle has been won. Maybe. I do think that the Right has way over-invested in Obamacare being a political winner for them, and if events continue on their current trajectory, it probably won’t be.

The question that won’t die — even on Fox News — is why can’t the Republicans come up with an alternative plan? And of course, they have. Every few months they announce with great fanfare that they have an alternative plan, and it gets a little flurry of attention, and rightie media triumphantly announces that the problem is solved, and then everybody forgets about that plan. And a few months later they announce a new new plan, which turns out to be a tweak of the last one, and then that one is forgotten.

And this happens because their plans aren’t serious. They’re just props. Because what they really want to do — eliminate or privatize the safety net and just let an unregulated private insurance industry gouge us any way it likes — is a political non-starter, and they know it. Their only hope of getting what they want is by doing it in increments — dismantling the ACA, then cutting safety net programs and insurance regulations by persuading us that it will make everything better, because free markets and capitalism and makers not takers.

So whatever “plans” they come up with have to serve that incremental purpose, which means they aren’t designed primarily to help people get health care.

Paul Krugman reminds us that the ACA was their plan, which has a lot to do with why it’s so messy.

Ross Douthat, in the course of realistically warning his fellow conservatives that Obamacare doesn’t seem to be collapsing, goes on to tell them that they’re going to have to come up with a serious alternative.

But Obamacare IS the conservative alternative, and not just because it was originally devised at the Heritage Foundation. It’s what a health-care system that does what even conservatives say they want, like making sure that people with preexisting conditions can get coverage, has to look like if it isn’t single-payer.

I don’t really think one more repetition of the logic will convince many people, but here we go again. Suppose you want preexisting conditions covered. Then you have to impose community rating — insurers must offer the same policies to people regardless of medical history. But just doing that causes a death spiral, because people wait until they’re sick to buy insurance. So you also have to have a mandate, requiring healthy people to join the risk pool. And to make buying insurance possible for people with lower incomes, you have to have subsidies.

The box they are in is that they can’t come up with a serious alternative. There is no possible serious alternative on the Right. Not one that will actually help people get health care, anyway. All they can do is obstruct and play legislative theater with their prop plans.

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