Congressional Republicans deployed a brilliant strategy to gut Obamacare by camouflaging within the tax cut bill language ending the insurance purchase mandate. Had they tried to run that as a “standalone” measure, it no doubt would have been defeated, as was their initial effort earlier this year to wreck Obamacare.
The requirement that everyone purchase insurance helps Obamacare survive by guaranteeing income to insurers that they lose by being forced to cover everyone – including the sickest people – and give them the same basic coverage no matter their needs. By requiring younger, healthier people who would forgo insurance to pay for it, insurers get the cash they need to pay the bills of the least healthy. Without this requirement, insurers would take a big hit and have no reason to participate in the health care “exchanges” providing insurance to individuals.
But in order to get the vote of moderate Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine for the tax cut, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to move legislation that would have taxpayers restore “cost sharing” payments to insurance companies, which would help them deal with the expected decision of many healthy young adults to stop buying insurance. This would, of course, undermine the whole purpose of eliminating the mandate.
Fortunately, it appears that House Republicans are going to reject the idea, which the Senate wants to include in a separate spending package. Conservatives likely will not agree to again grab defeat from the jaws of victory on Obamacare. Barack Obama’s signature achievement – other than doubling the debt, vastly weakening our national security, and growing the economy at the lowest rate of any post-World War II president – likely is on its way out, while Collins will be left with a face-saving deal she can blame the House for not agreeing to.