In the summer of 2009, Bill Kristol urged Republicans not to try to improve Obamacare but to “kill it.” That advice is equally trenchant today.
Americans have sent members of the party supporting repeal to Congress in droves, while sending equal numbers of the party supporting Obamacare packing. House Republicans will surely pass a repeal bill shortly after taking control of Congress in January. The Democrats will kill it, if not in the Senate then certainly in the White House. That’s fine. Obamacare is on the ropes — as are those Democrats who continue to insist that the American people accept it whether they want it or not.
But Republicans need to resist the follow-on temptation to repeal some of the most unpopular parts of the overhaul — a mantra that’s been getting voiced more often by the day. Republicans need to kill Obamacare, not treat it. And, however well-intentioned, extracting particularly egregious parts of it — parts that would otherwise help to kill it — counts as treating it.
That’s not to say that Republicans should hesitate to repeal Obamacare’s oppressive 1099 requirements. Even President Obama has essentially admitted that these must go. The 1099 provisions have very little to do with health care. They provide one of Obamacare’s many sources of financing. And Republicans shouldn’t hesitate to prevent such an onerous tax policy from going into effect.
At the opposite extreme, Republicans also shouldn’t hesitate to try to repeal parts of Obamacare that would undermine its very existence — for example, repealing the individual mandate, or the Medicaid expansions and exchange subsidies. If such legislation could get through the Senate, it would force President Obama to veto it. No harm could come from that.
But Republicans shouldn’t try to extract parts of the bill whose repeal would in no way kill Obamacare but, in truth, would make it stronger. Obamacare can never be made anything but awful, and trying to make it somewhat less awful would merely make it somewhat harder to achieve its full and essential repeal. If he were wise, President Obama would sign such legislation if it ever came to his desk: Better to sacrifice a part to save the whole. But Republicans would be wise not to give him the chance.
Real, sensible, bipartisan reform can lower health costs and decrease the number of uninsured without compromising Americans’ liberty or the nation’s fiscal solvency. But it can’t be achieved until we repeal Obamacare and start over with a clean slate.
Kill ObamaCare; don’t treat it.