Over the course of the past four years we have had the opportunity to witness the most savy sneaky political move in memory; the problem is nobody seems to realize it has happened so it isn't getting the attention it deserves. The Republican leadership were just handed the individual mandate, on a platter, and Obama will get to be there goat when everyone realizes they've been duped. Plus, the Republicans already have an excellent plank in their platform to help them take over congress and the executive branch in the 2012 election. President Obama has been snookered by people with far more political savy.
Up until 2008, when Obama took office, the Republican party had fought to get an individual mandate included in any health care reform package. Romney used it in Massachusettes, not because he is a great politician, but becuase he was toeing the party line. At the same time democrats, and notably, Barack Obama were opposed to the mandate he was even famously quoted as saying, "...if a mandate was the solution, we can try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody to buy a house." However, during the same time period Obama was talking about hope and change and bipartisan cooperation. It was then that the Republican's began to formulate their plan for getting exactly what they wanted should McCain lose as he eventually did.
Everyone knew that health care reform was the primary plank in Obama's platform and he wanted to provide a government option. The last thing he wanted was an individual mandate but it quickly became apparant that if Obama didn't conceed the mandate then there would be no chance that any of the bill would become reality. So, Obama compromised and that's when he signed the dotted line to be the scapegoat for what's going to happen whent he Republican's have control.
Currently, the GOP insists that the first thing they will do when they take over is to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare. They are lying. They definitely want to repeal big chunks of it but the individual mandate is here to stay. The majority of Democrats who actually like the mandate are either playing along with the Republicans are they are just clueless to how the game is going to play out. The ACA will be dismantled but none of the provisions removed are going to benefit normal American citizens - they will, however, benefit insurance companies, other coorporations, the exceptionally wealthy that have substantial stock in those companies, and the party members currently serving in congress. Here's how it will go down.
- The ACA states that families that make between 133 and 400% of the poverty line will get a sliding scale tax credit to help them pay for their insurance. This will most likely be repealed under the guise of a cost cutting measure. These families will still have to buy insurance, under the mandate, but they won't get any help from the government.
- Families making less than 400% of the poverty line will have capped premiums so that they won't have to pay more than x% of their income. Here is a calculator to help you figure out how much you can be expected to pay as a maximum. Don't bother using it because this limitation will undoubtedly be one of the first parts of the law that is repealed. Insurance premiums are going to skyrocket and we will be left with a huge bill
- When the individual mandate is active those who can afford insurance (meaning premiums are no more than 8% of annual income) but they refuse to buy it they will have to pay a penalty/tax of $695 or 2.5% whichever is higher. This won't be repealed but it will be increased. I imagine it will go to closer to $2500 or 8% whichever is higher. By making it more expensive to pay the fines than it is to buy insurance they will get more people into the insurance market.
- There are tax credits for small businesses up to those that have 50 employees. This will expand to "small" businesses with up to 500 employees as that is the traditional governmental definition of a small business.
- Insurance companies can't discriminate on pre-existing conditions. I think this one will stay intact.
- Insurance companies can discriminate on age up to a 3-1 ratio. I imagine this is going to go up to a 10-1 ratio.
- Starting in 2018 the law imposes a 35% tax, on employer provided health care plans that exceed $10,200 for individual coverage or $27,500 for family coverage. Supposedly this will get companies to shop around and thus force insurance companies to reduce premiums. This will be repealed in its entirety.
- The law, already in place, requires insurance companies to spend between 80-85 percent of premiums on actual medical care as opposed to overhead. They have to pay a rebate to the customers if they spend too much on overhead. This year insurance companies are expected to pay out $1.1 Billion - this will be repealed; probably before anything else on the list.
The Republican leadership will explain that this is all cost savings for the public. They will say they offset any cost gains by removing the tax breaks and closing loopholes. The fact that the tax breaks being removed are against the individuals who most need them will be missed by the republican party as a whole becuase, while the Republican's have been setting Obama up as a goat they've also been working a masterful plan of propoganda that has been incredibly effective.
Lifelong republicans, for the most part, at this point in time don't trust the "liberal media." However, they do trust the fair and balanced reporting of Fox News and the gospel as doled out by various Talk Radio personalities. Our nation as a whole is incredibly uninformed but the republican party is even more so. That's why over 50% still wonder about Obama's birth certificate or still believe that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. The republican propoganda machine is amazing in its ability to deliver a consistent message that is believed, in it's entirety, by those who trust it as their sole source of news coverage. Thus, when the republican party leadership starts to dismantle the ACA, directly having a negative effect on their average members lives, those very same members will continue to defend the actions saying it is being done in the name of "small government" and "American Values." never once stopping to question if what is happening is actually good for America, themselves, or in line with "American Values."
Eventually, however, they will realize they are paying more for health insurance than ever before. They will see that insurance company CEO's are getting immense bonuses and they will realize that health care reform is more needed than ever before. They won't blame the neutering of ACA by their own party though. Instead, they will blame Obama for the individual mandate. He will be even more villified than ever before. He will be the poster child for how not to reform the health care industry and the Democratic party will have no footing at all to fight back. No amount of reasoning or facts will change the minds of those who suddenly realize they are putting upwards of 20% of their annual income into a governmentally mandated health insurance plan. They will just cling to the mandate as the core problem and demand it's repeal. The Republican's will, of course, say they tried and tried to get rid of it but the obstructionist Democrats wouldn't allow it and Fox News will have been repeating that story for years so, of course, it will be believed.
All the while the wealth disparity in our country will grow and the people who are being hurt by it the most will continue to defend it as part of the American Dream and that the truly poor are just lazy while the wealthy worked hard and thus deserve to be rewarded. They worked hard all right - they worked hard to pull the wool over America's eyes and to make sure the finger of blame can't be pointed their way.
Well played John Boehner and company. Well played.