The Magazine

Dare to Defeat ObamaCare

The American public is right. ObamaCare is wrong. It should and can be defeated.

Jun 22, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 38 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL and YUVAL LEVIN
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The government insurance "option" is clearly shaping up to be the first key vulnerability of ObamaCare. It is crucial to the logic of the Democrats' approach, as it would offer convenient cover both for the move toward government financing of coverage and for the rationing of care such a move would require. The president, congressional leaders, and key liberal interest groups have insisted it be part of any reform effort. But as outside opposition grows, it is far from clear that the government option will have the votes to pass. If it were voted down or pulled out of the Democrats' bills, the logic and the inevitability of the remainder of their reform effort would be called into question, and Republicans would face a real opportunity to make the case for their own brand of reform, and to stop the ObamaCare train in its tracks.

It is crucial that they seize the opportunity. The public plan is not the only important question in the health care debate. There are many other strong reasons for stopping a plan that would cost at least $1.5 trillion, create a huge and growing new entitlement without paying for it, impose great financial burdens on employers and individuals, displace millions of families who are happy with their existing health care arrangements, lead to increasing rationing of care, and do very little else to control health care costs. If they lose the government plan the Democrats will still pursue its ends by other means--including onerous new mandates and the federalization of insurance regulation envisioned in their bills. So conservatives need to defeat the government insurance "option"--and then move on to finish the job by exposing the other massive problems with ObamaCare, so as to bring the whole edifice of bad and dangerous "reform" crashing down.

The good news is that opinion polls suggest the vast majority of Americans do not want their health coverage forcibly changed by the federal government. Indeed, Americans today are less persuaded of the need for radical reform than they were the last time the Democrats tried to enact one, in 1993. As Michael Barone points out, "An April tracking poll conducted for the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that voters rank changing health care below strengthening the economy, stabilizing Medicare and Social Security, and reducing the federal budget deficit on a list of eight possible priorities.  .  .  .  The blunt fact is that most Americans are satisfied with their health insurance and don't believe major legislation will improve things for them."

The American public is right. ObamaCare is wrong. It should and can be defeated. It is moderates and Democrats who ultimately will defeat it late this year or next--but they will do so only if Republicans stand firm now and conservatives make the arguments now. If we do, and this fight goes well, the struggle to save the country from ObamaCare could mark the beginning of a new center-right coalition to restrain the grossly excessive ambitions of the administration and congressional Democrats, with regard not only to health care but to spending and borrowing, and to the role and reach of government more broadly.

--Yuval Levin and William Kristol