Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a liberal, no one represented the forces of evil to me more than Senator Phil Gramm, Republican of Texas.
On March 4 the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, with a decision expected in late June. If the court strikes down the payment of government subsidies to those who bought health insurance on the federal exchange, Republicans will at last have a real opportunity to amend ObamaCare. Doing so, however, will be politically perilous.
Republicans need a strategy that is easy to understand, broadly popular and difficult to oppose. It must unite Republicans and divide congressional Democrats, while empowering Republican governors and legislators to resist administration pressure. I believe that strategy is what I would call “the freedom option.” Every American should have the right to decide not to participate in ObamaCare: If you like ObamaCare and its subsidies, you can keep it. If you don’t, you are free to buy the health insurance that fits your needs.
The freedom option would fulfill the commitment the president made over and over again about ObamaCare: If you like your health insurance you can keep it. If Republicans crafted a simple bill that guarantees the right of individuals and businesses to opt out of ObamaCare, buy the health insurance they choose from any willing seller (with risk pools completely separate from ObamaCare), millions of Americans would rejoice and exercise this freedom. Such a proposal would be easy for Republicans to articulate and defend. And it would be very difficult for Democrats to attack.
Taking a cue from our racist, sexist friends in Hollywood, the simplest pitches are the best ones. Hot Tub Time Machine (I or II) takes no effort to decipher. Snakes on a Plane will have snakes on a plane, and Samuel L. Jackson mf-ing his way from cockpit to rear lavatory to kill them. The ninety-four minutes between opening and closing credits practically film themselves.
Even the Affordable Care Act is a model of packaging. Call it what it isn’t, and you can make it as impenetrable and obscure as Last Year at Marianbad, with Alain Resnais as the forbear of Jonathan Gruber in making people endure the unendurable.
But Gramm conquers all: “the freedom option”. Obama eliminated plans people liked and relied on for years. (He called them “bad apples”—the plans, not the people) Gramm restores them. You pick the plan you want, not the government. It’s not only tidy packaging, it’s Republican thinking.
The opposition would come solely from those who understand that ObamaCare is built on coercion—and that unless young, healthy Americans are forced into the program to be exploited with above-market insurance rates, the subsidies will prove unaffordable. That will be an exceedingly difficult case to make to the public.
By extinguishing coercion, the freedom option would put ObamaCare on the path to extinction. Without the ability to exploit the young and healthy, the Affordable Care Act will collapse under its own funding weight, all but guaranteeing a 2017 revision of the entire law.
[V]ictory will require a determination to govern. The alternative will almost certainly be a long or a short path to capitulation.
Government by choice, or government by coercion. I’m thinking, I’m thinking!
PS: My favorite Gramm line of all time was this: “I have more guns than I need, but less guns than I want.” Even as a tsk-tsking liberal, I admired the pith and confrontational attitude of the line—also its genuine Texan questionable grammar, corrected for the bumper sticker: