Next Ploy to Sabotage Obamacare: Beating Up on Sick People

News & Politics

Attacking the HealthCare.gov roll-out problems is so last week. The Web site will be fixed, so the next round of attacks from the right is gearing up: A variation on the theme of trying to convince young people that having insurance is bad. This time, they're focusing on the people who will see an increase in insurance costs, and will try to pit them against the people who really need insurance.


There is a chunk of previously insured people in the individual market who are losing their coverage and will potentially have to pay more for insurance. Those are the people who previously had high deductible, low coverage, catastrophic insurance plans. They paid bottom dollar for plans that would help them if they ended up in the hospital after an accident or major illness, but generally wouldn't provide any coverage for routine medical care like check-ups, immunizations, prescriptions, etc. Those kinds of plans are no longer allowed under Obamacare. All plans have to cover a basic core of preventive services, and some people will have to pay more for that better coverage (though many will receive subsidies to bring those costs down). And those people are truly seeing rate shock, even though they're getting much more for their money.

Enter the Republicans and their new strategy.

If a flood of stories about “rate shock” scare people out of browsing for plans themselves, all the better. But the real backup plan, such as it is, is to pit a thin demographic — healthy, young, middle-class, disproportionately male individuals who had cheap but crappy insurance until now and are resentful that they have to pay more — against the newly insured, and older, sicker beneficiaries who will see their costs go down, and hope the latter don’t have enough clout to prevail in a political brawl. [...]

They want to mortally damage the law. And as such they don’t care nearly as much about the dollars people will spend because ACA-compliant insurance benefits are fairly generous as they do about the dollars people will spend because they’re cross-subsidizing the ill and the aged. And those are precisely the grounds to fight on if the goal is to get liberals to circle the wagons around Obamacare.

Republicans are making a bet that there will be enough of these people to make a difference, ignoring the fact that there are millions who will be paying less for their coverage, and there will be millions more able to get insurance for the first time because of their pre-existing health issues. Chances are pretty good though, that when the Web site is running at full steam and people are signing up—the majority of whom will see lower premiums—that will become the story. There's even a chance that those who are forced out of their catastrophic plans and into something that gives them more coverage will come to appreciate the greater benefits.

But none of that is likely to keep Republicans from continuing the fight, a fight that the public has shown pretty conclusively and repeatedly that it's sick of. And once again, Republicans will find themselves on the losing side of the Obamacare battle.


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