THE MOTIVATING EVENT(S): Most parts of the The Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare will be implemented in 2014.
THE GENERAL PROBLEM: The GOP has made opposing Obamacare their raison d’etre; they have, with some success, managed to recast what was at one time a Republican response to health care into a symbol of repressive government overreach, inculcating baseless fears among those poorly informed Americans who are susceptible to the GOP narrative. This very useful propaganda structure will be threatened when the law goes into effect and has few or no negative consequences for most Americans, while making health care available to others for the first time. If Republicans don’t want to be exposed as weak and corrupt, they have to intensify their kicking and screaming while lobbing spanners into any part of the Obamacare works that are vulnerable.
THE OPPORTUNITY FOR MISCHIEF:The Obama Administration has delayed until 2015 the requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees that are not already offering insurance begin to do so. Many health care policy types have argued persuasively that the delay will have little negative impact while allowing the administration to concentrate on more crucial aspects of ACA implementation. Only 2% of businesses that meet the criteria for the delay, those with 50 or more employees, do not already offer insurance. There is, however, a symbolic risk and opponents of the law are already attempting to parlay the change into yet more anti-Obamacare hysteria.
SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY: The GOP has been quick to try to capitalize on this event, gleefully grabbing their spanners. Yesterday a few GOP senators – including our boy Roy – got together to let us know, totally without irony, how exercised they are about the delay in implementing a law that they otherwise oppose, and what they intend to do about it via amendments to an upcoming spending bill:
1. Deny funds to enforce the employer mandate.
2. Deny funds to enforce the individual mandate.
3. Deny funds for the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) that sets pricing guidelines for Medicare (and which GOP senators persist in fancifully dubbing “death panels,” in spite of the risible effect that label now has).
ROY’S ROLE: As a member of the Senate leadership, it is significant that Missouri GOP Seantor Blunt put forward the Republican talking points:
Blunt’s main points:
1. The delay of the employer mandate is intended purely for political reasons; Blunt claims that the fallout of implementing the mandate will hurt Democrats in 2014. However, if that were the case, why aren’t provisions that will have much greater impact – the individual mandate, for instance – being delayed? In general, the delays and work-arounds that Roy details will have little major impact, but will ensure a smoother roll-out over all.
2. Blunt suggests that the delay contravenes the law. This contention is, in fact, not true. The employer mandate has not actually been delayed – only the reporting requirements, which are arguably an implementation detail. The effect will be, true, to delay implementation since fines for non-compliance cannot be levied without the reporting mechanisms.
3. Blunt notes that as part of the reporting mechanism, income verification mechanisms for individuals who apply for insurance subsidies are also waived – a better word, however, would have been delayed. Those who attempt to take advantage of the delay to make inappropriate claims will be forced to verify their eligibility for the subsidies within a few months. Hardly justification for doing away with the exchanges or the subsidies for lower income Americans.
4. Rather than allowing the administration to defer minor parts of the law in order to insure that major sections, such as the insurance exchanges, work from the start with as few glitches as possible, Blunt wants us to “permanently delay” what he calls a “flawed law” so that better alternatives can be crafted. Right. Remember when Roy Blunt, recipient of lots of insurance industry money, was the point man in charge of one of those alternative plans? And remember how we all had a good laugh when he offered up his plan.
Good GOP soldier Roy has been pushing these points on the various social media and via emails to his constituents. A copy of the email I received is included below the fold.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ROY: Although our boy Roy is a relatively junior Senator, he’s a Washington old-timer and has been a big-time GOP inside player. Consequently, he’s already got a place in the Senate’s GOP leadership group and one would probably be correct in assuming that he’s working hard to amass the type of weight that will propel him forward. And, as always with Blunt, there’s his lucrative corporate ties – his ability to pull in the green not only aids his reelection, but it also boosts him as a power player. Never doubt that Blunt’s got skin in the game when it comes time to reinforce the party line.
CONCLUSIONS: I’ll let Steve Benen articlate the more general conclusions:
… They [i.e., Republicans] have a choice between governing and these ridiculous antics, and they clearly prefer the latter.
Keep in mind, there is no precedent in American history for this. Countless measures have passed over the objections of one party or the other, but we’ve never seen a political dynamic in which one radicalized, unhinged party casts literally dozens of pointless repeal votes while actively, shamelessly trying to sabotage existing federal law.
What conclusions can we draw specifically about Roy Blunt and his role in these “antics”? We know he’s not a total ass, like Senator Mike Lee, who threatened to shut down the government to prevent federal budget funds for Obamacare. Our boy’s been around the block a few times; it’s a safe bet he’s willingly participating in a political charade meant to serve partisan ends despite harmful consequences for his constituents and the nation as a whole. I’ll leave it to you to supply the appropriate descriptive term – I’m trying hard to avoid obscenities.
*1st sentence of 2nd paragraph edited slightly for clarity; link added in third paragraph.
What follows is the text of the email I received from Senator Blunt:
I’ve heard time and again from Missourians who are rightly concerned about the impact of ObamaCare. Amid growing criticism, the Obama administration announced last week that it will delay a key component of this law – the employer mandate- until after the 2014 elections.
By announcing this delay, the Obama Administration admitted what we’ve long known: This law is fundamentally flawed. But picking and choosing which aspects of the law to postpone is like riding a bike with one wheel – it simply does not work.
I’ve repeatedly voted to repeal and defund ObamaCare. We need a permanent delay of this law for all Americans while we work to implement common-sense health care solutions.
I joined my colleagues this week to call on the president to enact a permanent delay for everyone, and I recently spoke on the Senate floor about this critical issue. I’ve also asked Missourians to share their questions about ObamaCare on Facebook and via Twitter using #AskRoy.
I hope you’ll join this conversation online, and that you will continue to share your stories, questions, and concerns with me regarding this and other important topics facing our state and the nation by visiting my website.