In July, 22 House Democrats joined House Republicans in passing a bill to delay Obamacare's requirement that all Americans purchase health insurance by one year, a measure that would save $35 billion. The individual mandate, which Barack Obama opposed during the 2008 Democratic primaries, has never been popular. And the Obama administration's decision to delay the employer mandate by one year handed opponents of the individual mandate an obvious argument to make: If you're going give corporations and big businesses a special break, shouldn't families and individuals get a reprieve, too?
To most Americans, and 22 House Democrats, that would seem only fair. But the impact of such a delay would not be trivial, according to a new paper by the the Urban Institute, a liberal-leaning think tank. "At this late date, a change as significant as delaying the individual mandate would also delay or seriously disrupt the implementation of all reforms related to private insurance markets scheduled to begin January 1, 2014," write Linda J. Blumberg and John Holahan. The authors conclude that delay of the individual mandate would "have substantial implications for the feasibility of effectively implementing the law in the coming years."
Supporters of the law, of course, consider this a bad thing. But for opponents of the law, it's the reason Republicans should target the individual mandate. As Yuval Levin and James Capretta wrote in a recent WEEKLY STANDARD editorial, "the most essential part of Obamacare is also among the most unpopular: the individual mandate. This is where efforts to use the GOP’s limited leverage should be concentrated."
If Republicans were to tie a one-year delay of the individual mandate to any bill raising the debt limit, could it put enough Senate Democrats in such a politically untenable position that they would vote for the measure, despite consequences to Obamacare? We'll only know if Republicans force a vote.