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The Obamacare Concession Is Actually Pretty Important


The shutdown is over, and the only Obamacare concession the GOP won is, at first glance, even less significant than the more modest items on their wish list going into this fight.

The GOP won not a delay of the individual mandate, not the repeal of the medical device tax, not an agreement to strip congressional health plans of the employer subsidy—all of which might have been touted as minor wins. Rather, all they got was a tightening of the income verification measures for Obamacare subsidies. These new measures will require the exchanges to verify an applicant’s income to ensure that no one gets a bigger subsidy than he’s supposed to. (This issue first arose when the Obama administration announced that states would not have to do income verification for all applicants in 2014.)

The President’s supporters are ambivalent about this change, because it doesn’t affect any of the ACA’s fundamentals. Politico:

Ethan Rome, executive director of Health Care for America Now, which supports the health care law, didn’t appear concerned about the measure either. “Obamacare is 100 percent intact and there’s nothing about this deal that interferes with that,” Rome said.

“If I was the secretary, I would feel comfortable certifying there is a verification program in place,” said Judy Solomon, a health policy analyst at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Everything can continue.”

From the perspective of those who wanted to significantly alter or repeal Obamacare, this fig leaf doesn’t even come close to covering the GOP’s embarrassing political defeat. But on its own merits, it’s actually a good measure, and something Republicans should take some (small) satisfaction in.

We’ve read several reports lately about the latent possibilities for fraud in the health care exchanges. Some of these pointed out the ways the exchanges could help fraudsters trick ordinary Americans out of their money: The Hill, for example, reports on fraudulent websites that have masqueraded as the legitimate federal exchange website. This concession won’t do anything to stop fraud like that.

However, as Yuval Levin and others have noted, delaying eligibility verification could have opened up tons of opportunities to defraud the federal government and claim unmerited subsidies. The WSJ calculated that fraud of that kind could have cost $250 billion over the next decade. Tightening income requirements won’t close all the loopholes that will add to the cost of the exchanges, but it will help—and if it doesn’t seem like much, at least it’s not nothing.

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  • Andrew Allison
    • qet

      Thanks for this link. When I read Beinart’s article, at first I thought I had been too hasty in my extreme pessimism. Then I reflected: the sequester cuts are trivial, their value entirely symbolic. As I remember it, the cuts are not even truly cuts but merely reductions in planned increases in spending. The establishment GOP was willing to declare victory and go home over these near-meaningless (except as symbols) cuts, which is why Cruz & Co. upped the ante, attempting nothing less than killing the serpent of a new massive entitlement in its shell. But for people like Beinart, symbolism is everything, and so he sees the fact that thhey are still in place as some sort of devious GOP win. Not only that, but every Republican in Congress could resign tomorrow, and there would still be no climate change legislation, universal healthcare or any of the other liberal fantasies enumerated by Beinart. Beinart is seriously deluding himself, or us, or both, if he truly believes that the absence of these wish-list items signifies a GOP victory.

    • Corlyss

      Andrew, I thought you had more sophistication than to rely on anything the Daily Beast has to say about Republican failures or successes, much less Peter Beinart, one of New Republic’ young toadies. The Obama adoration meter reading there is off the scale.

      • Andrew Allison

        And I thought better of you my friend. It didn’t occur to me that I needed to explain that it was extraordinary that the Daily Beastly would suggest that it was a Republican victory.

        • Corlyss

          Oops. Did I screw up again? Live by the scan, die by the scan. Okay. I can’t read the article now, but I will later tonight. If necessary, I will grovel.

          • Corlyss

            Okay. I’ve read the article. I grovel on that basis – i.e., for reflexively denouncing it without reading it. Now that I’ve read it, I still denounce it as a put up job from a Progressive twit (okay, he’s not as bad as Jonathan Chaitt, who is completely deranged).

            Really, Andrew, this alone should have tipped you off:

            “The Nixon years were terrible for the Democratic Party but quite good for progressive domestic policy.” On what planet were the Nixon years bad for Dems? By what calculus? Their creds rose to stratospheric heights with their successful coup deposing a sitting president, not coincidentally a Republican president.

            “Americans issued a stern negative judgment to Ford and the GOP in the November 1974 midterm election. This historic high point for Democrats saw a net gain of 4 Senate seats and 49 seats in the House of Representatives, with no fewer than 75 Democratic House freshmen labeled as ‘Watergate babies’ after the chief single reason for the existence in public office of some from districts which normally and historically had voted for Republicans (Renka, Presidents and Congresses at 94th Congress). Presidents typically face midterm partisan seat reversals, but 1974 was considerably beyond the customary losses (U. S. House of Representatives elections, 1974; U.S. Senate elections, 1974). Democrats won 57.1% of the national congressional vote, the most in any election since World War II (Ornstein et al., 1998, T. 2-2, pp. 52-53). Ford hereafter faced a 94th Congress dominated numerically in two-to-one ratio by Democrats, including a large host of liberal and reformist elements who were not inclined to follow their own party leadership, let alone a traditional midwestern conservative Republican who happened to occupy the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in 1975 and 1976. Ford’s chief instrument of policy influence throughout this Congress was the veto, employed a record 66 times in 28 months of Ford’s tenure with no fewer than 12 of those resulting in veto overrides (Ragsdale 1996, 402). Although Ford had 25 years as a legislator and eight as leader of his House party, no background is sufficient for a president to lead a Congress controlled two-to-one by the opposite party.”'sfall.asp#Congressional_ Resurgence
            Most of Nixon’s policies were very liberal. Why? Because he didn’t give a rat’s posterior about domestic policy and he subbed that out to one of the German shepherds, i.e., Ehrlichmann.

            The day we take advice, comfort, or cues, from Dem apologists and lickspittles like Beinart is a very bad day for conservatives indeed.

  • qet

    Nice try, but the battle just ended had nothing to do with policy wonkery and everything to do with politics, or should I say, Politics. There are far far too many people in the US who believe that the Federal government ought to be nothing more than a bureaucratically managed enterprise, staffed by a corps of exam-passing careerists who selflessly devote their lives to “public service” and thus must be deferred to in everything, so that the rest of us can live our lives to the fullest, which means: watching the VMAs to see if Miley Cyrus is at it again; eating at great ethnic food joints; doing a 50-mile bike ride and a half marathon–in a word, recreating. What we just witnessed was an effort at Politics; you know, battles over fundamental issues of how we go about governing ourselves. The people’s representatives slugging it out. Politics ain’t beanbag, remember? People get hurt doing Politics and progress is understood to consist in the government preventing us from hurting ourselves (Rousseau: “We cripple them to keep them from laming themselves.”). And all the while, the obscenely left-liberal media elite in this country were castigating the GOP mavericks not so much for the content of their politics as for having the audacity to attempt Politics in the first place, when that is seen as a thing of the past, as something contrary to “good governance.” So the only significant thing about this whole episode is not the GOP’s failure to get rid of a tax or delay implementation, nor the GOP’s success in getting a tighter income verification requirement. What is significant is that Politics itself was defeated.

  • Boritz

    We will get this verification functionality into the web application asap. –The IT guys.

  • korby

    Via Meadia seems to have more and more instances where your writers are using it’s when they mean to write its. That’s a pretty basic distinction and just takes a minute to learn if you take the time.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    What most don’t realize is that for the TEA Party, this whole shut down fight wasn’t about getting rid of Obamacare or gaining concessions from the Democrats (although it would have been nice), it was about the coming primary elections. This fight was about getting the establishment “gone Washington” Republicans to expose themselves as liars about their commitment to fight for fiscal responsibility and small government. What’s more they knew it, as evidenced by all the screaming and back stabbing they engaged in over the course of the fight. The mandarins in the leadership of the Republican party owe all their present undeserved power to the TEA Party election victories such as the 2010 shellacking, Wisconsin labor and recall fights, Colorado recalls, etc… their choices on the other hand have resulted in disasters like John “stab conservatives in the back” McCain, Mitt “Romneycare” Romney, etc… We in the TEA Party never expected the present leadership to fight hard enough to win anything, we just wanted them to expose themselves as professional politicians more concerned with keeping power than doing right by their constituents and the country, and in this we were very successful.

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