Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A tale of two Obamacare mandates

Historically, Republicans have been good at math.

For example, it has always been their virtue that they point out when the country is spending more than it is taking in.

Is this GOP expertise in numbers changing?

The question arises because, despite indications it is dead or at least on life support from a numbers standpoint, the “Defund Obamacare” movement is still a cause for some of them.

“I learned to count in Maryville (Tenn.) City Schools,” Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander recently told his critics on the right. “So I know that if you only have 45 votes and you need 60 senators to get something important done like balancing the budget and fixing the debt, then you have to work with other people — that is, IF you really care about solving the problem, IF you really want to get a result, instead of just making a speech.”

Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel suggested an alternative to Defund Obamacare, but it has a flaw: It equates the individual and employer mandates that are features of the new law. But at least it acknowledges that Defund Obamacare has insufficient support in Congress.

Strassel suggests an assault on Obamacare’s individual mandate. She says the GOP ought to push for a delay in the Jan. 1, 2014 effective date for the mandate requiring individuals to have health insurance. The fine for not having insurance in 2014 is a whopping $95 per adult. (By the way, those earning beneath a certain income level are exempt from the fine.)

Strassel’s logic is that since the administration delayed the effective date of the employer mandate to Jan. 1, 2015, the individual mandate also should be delayed for a year.

That argument is possibly enough to convince some House Democrats of joining Republicans to go along with. The merits of the suggestion are something else, however.

Comparing the individual and employers mandate is akin to an apple and an orange. One has nothing to do with the other. 

Employers faces tens of thousands of potential fines for not supplying insurance to employees, while the responsibility for insurance actually rests with the individual. Individuals remain free to seek employment with employers who offer health insurance benefits, or seek coverage in the individual market.

The idea of a mandate actually originated with the conservative Heritage Foundation, had been backed by many Republicans, and was implemented in Massachusetts when Mitt Romney was governor. The premise is simple: There is no such thing as a free lunch. No freeloading. Since everyone uses the health care system, everyone (who is able) needs to pay. These are good old Republican notions.

Strassel also is mathematically challenged, by the way. The Senate is unlikely to approve a delay even if it passes the House and President Obama has a veto power he is likely to wield.

Some in the GOP appear to have a short memory but they lost the last two presidential elections.

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