File this one under reasons to remain skeptical of Obamacare.
This week, video surfaced showing professor, economist and Affordable Care Act architect Jonathan Gruber describe before an audience at the University of Pennsylvania how deception, “a lack of transparency” and the “stupidity of the American voter” were all critical in getting President Obama’s signature healthcare policy passed into law.
Let the audacity of that assertion sink in for a moment.
For the 51 percent of Americans, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, who still view the ACA with disfavor, that shouldn’t come as a shock. In fact, the opacity employed in drafting, passing and then marketing the law is one of the reasons why cynicism about Obamacare remains so high.
Gruber’s revelations are simply further evidence that the “most transparent administration in history” — Obama’s words, not mine — has grossly misunderstood the definition of transparency.
Still, affirming the government’s duplicity doesn’t change the fact that Obamacare is the law of the land. Nor does it solve the law’s manifold problems and complications, which are here to stay absent congressional action or a monumental decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is still possible next spring.
But it certainly will incite Republican members of the incoming U.S. House and Senate to pursue yet another vote to repeal the law in full, and, considering Gruber’s comments, who can blame them?
It’s clear, given the decisive midterm election results, that Obamacare is still a problem for many Americans — particularly those whose plans have been canceled, whose premiums and deductibles have increased while their networks have narrowed, or those who have endured other economic challenges as a result of the law, like reduced work hours.
While disapproval of the law still remains high, full repeal is impossible until at least 2017, when a presidential veto is no longer a certainty.
But that doesn’t mean Americans don’t want the law substantially changed in the meantime.
As senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and healthcare policy expert Avik Roy points out, “one underappreciated aspect of the last four years is that the GOP-controlled House of Representatives passed dozens of healthcare-related bills that were popular with the public.”
Those bills include repeal of the medical device tax, which several studies, including one from the American Action Forum, have found will result in substantial job losses.
The employer mandate — a provision that penalizes employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent workers if they don’t offer government-approved health insurance or their employees can’t afford insurance without subsidies — has also emerged as a portion of the law for which there is bipartisan support for repeal or reform.
Even liberal pundit Ezra Klein noted “eliminating it — or at least utterly overhauling it — is probably the right thing to do.”
And Congress has already delayed its implementation for wholly political reasons more than once.
The good news is that come January, with Harry Reid no longer able to block bills from reaching the Senate floor, Republicans will have the opportunity to reintroduce legislation that will address the most egregious parts of the law. Not coincidentally, those also happen to be provisions that are likely to garner bipartisan support, particularly now that the stakes are not so high for Senate Democrats. And it’s possible, with enough pressure from the left, that the president will sign some of these legislative fixes into law.
But while Republicans slowly work to dismantle the big government healthcare infrastructure, they must also be prepared to present new ideas — whether substantial reforms or wholesale policies that will tackle the underlying problem of our healthcare system, and a major problem left unaddressed by Obamacare — the increasing cost of care and coverage.
And if they’re smarter than the Democrats, they'll use the next two years to build public support for an Obamacare alternative, through a transparent and honest legislative process that doesn’t rely on deception and the “stupidity” of voters to pass.