Amidst the brouhaha over defunding Obamacare, the government shutting down, the Republican brand plummeting as the party fractures, etc., etc., the GOP is being presented with a golden opportunity that they would be extremely wise to consider and exploit carefully — Obamacare is about to defund itself.
And this isn’t just because of the ridiculously rocky rollout of its website. The government is apparently sending for the private tech industry “fire department” in the Silicon Valley. Those folks will probably be able to unsnarl things sooner or later.
Apple, after all, was able to sell 9 million of their new iPhones in the first weekend, a figure the Affordable Care Act is unlikely to achieve ever, let alone in the first forty-eight hours.
The government hopes to have 7 million insured by March. Now several weeks after launch, less than half a million have taken only the first application step. Who knows how many have actually gotten health insurance. The government isn’t saying — and we can guess why.
Indeed, the entire fiasco is a perfect example of the efficiency of free markets over government.
But that’s obvious. What is worse for Obamacare is what happens after they actually fix HealthCare.gov. They need young people to sign up, almost three million of them, to make the system fly, to subsidize it. But why should they? Many twenty and thirty somethings are paying off $20,000-$30,000 student loans. Many others don’t have jobs. And those that do, already subsidize Social Security.
With only a small penalty for abstaining, the numbers for signing up not only don’t add up — they’re absurd. Here’s one of the supposedly attractive deals: “One option available only to people under 30 is a so-called catastrophic policy that kicks in after a $6,350 annual deductible. In Monroe County, you can buy that policy on the New York State of Health exchange for as low as $131 a month for single coverage.”
Over fifteen hundred a year for a sixty-three hundred plus deductible? What healthy thirty year old would waste his or her money?
Who invented this plan? Certainly not Obama or Pelosi, neither of whom was paying close attention, I would bet. (Pelosi admitted she wasn’t. All Obama wanted was something to put his name next to, something that sounded vaguely “progressive.”)
I am writing this before Obama speaks on Monday, so have little idea of what he is going to say. But his only choice is to put his best face on the dreadful enrollment figures. Otherwise, he has to announce a delay in the program — the very thing Republicans shut the government over! (He’ll never do that. It’s too easy to point out.)
So what should Republicans do? First, as Hippocrates said, do no harm. Stop attacking each other. Follow Ronald Reagan’s prescription about never speaking ill of fellow Republicans. That kind of behavior turns off voters.
Never cease to point out the problems of Obamacare, but do it with humility and grace, maybe a little humor. Trust me — the public gets it. They’re supposed to enroll in the damn thing.
Also, it might be helpful to come up with a few market-oriented suggestions of your own to improve healthcare. But don’t be revolutionary about it. Keep it simple. Be specific and targeted.
And then keep smiling as you sweep up the winnings — in the elections of 2014 and 2016.
(Artwork created using multiple Shutterstock.com images.)