ChrisWeigant.com

From The Archives -- Dump The Individual Mandate

[ Posted Tuesday, March 27th, 2012 – 15:13 PDT ]

Since the subject is pretty much the only thing people in the political world are talking about today, I thought it would be a good time to re-run the following column, which originally appeared here September 21, 2010. You might also find interesting another article I wrote, on Mitt Romney and the politics of health care in April of 2011, since it was fairly prescient as to the arc of Romney's campaigning on the issue. I offer up both in case anyone needs a break from Supreme Court transcripts today.

 

Howard Dean is (as he is often wont to do) making all kinds of sense on healthcare reform today. His idea is to jettison the "individual mandate" part of the healthcare reform law passed this year. And he's right, on both political and practical grounds.

The individual mandate is the least-liked part of healthcare reform. It really has no natural constituency other than insurance companies. There was no call from the public to include this in the final law (as there was with the "public option," in comparison). The Left wasn't in favor of it, and it causes apoplexy over on the Right. President Obama did not campaign on the individual mandate (although Hillary Clinton did, I should point out), so he obviously didn't think it was all that important (or all that good an idea, take your choice) before he got elected. Since the mandate appeared, very few people have bothered defending it in public. Its appearance in the debate was obviously a direct result of demands from the health insurance industry, who will be the obvious beneficiary of the plan.

But, as Howard Dean points out, healthcare reform can succeed without it. Which means there shouldn't be anything standing in the way of throwing the whole idea of the mandate under the political bus, so to speak. Or, since the Tea Partiers hate it too, perhaps "throw it overboard" would be a better metaphor.

Personally, I've never been a big fan of the mandate, although it likely wouldn't affect me in the near future. The idea of paying a fine, or extra taxes, because you can't afford health insurance doesn't exactly have a whole lot of support from anyone these days (again, other than insurance companies). In fact, several states are currently suing the federal government over the constitutionality of the law. The mandate was even put to a popular vote during the primary season, and it lost in a big way (around 70/30). Which means repealing it would be wildly popular, for either political party. Right now, Republicans are drooling at the chance of doing so, but that shouldn't stop Democrats from joining the effort. It's a little late for them to be "leading" the effort, but such a repeal would likely have wide and bipartisan support, so politicians of either stripe could benefit in the end.

Now, the mandate isn't slated to go into effect for another few years. Repealing it would have no immediate impact on the status of health insurance. It would impact the future projections of healthcare, but the only ones who would be screaming about this would be, once again, the insurance companies. But, this time around, they're not going to find a whole lot of politicians willing to champion their position. Especially since the push to repeal it is coming from the Right in the first place. Republicans would be faced with the choice of parroting the insurers' talking points and carrying the legislative water for the industry (as they did in the whole healthcare reform battle over the past year and a half) -- or jumping on the "Repeal!" bandwagon wholeheartedly. This seems to be a no-brainer for them, since a large segment of the folks advocating repealing the mandate are from the Republican rank and file. And Republicans have already burned their fingers on a few hot teakettles this election season, meaning they would likely be very wary of siding with the insurers against their own political base's voters.

Democrats should also realize that defending the mandate is a losing battle for them as well. The mandate, as I said, is the least popular part of the healthcare law they managed to pass. It is the biggest target for those who are against the new law. But while Republicans seem to be dedicated to repealing the entire healthcare reform law (either as a whole, or bit by bit), Democrats could yank the rug out from under the GOP by getting rid of what is seen as the worst part of it, pre-emptively.

The other parts of the new law are a lot less contentious, and benefit families directly. By removing the mandate as the focal point of the opposition, it would force them to attack the other parts of the law instead. And while the Republicans have been making lots of political hay over the mandate issue, it's going to be a lot harder for them to do so on the issues of, for example, getting rid of the concept of pre-existing conditions or letting children stay on their parents' policy until they're 26. Neither of these has been put to a popular vote anywhere yet, but I would be willing to bet that they're a lot more popular with the public than the mandate.

Getting rid of the mandate would remove it as an issue from the debate. It would end the ongoing court cases. It would end the talk of constitutionality by healthcare reform critics. It would focus the debate on the parts of the new law that are much more popular. And even Howard Dean is now arguing that doing away with the mandate doesn't mean the rest of the law won't be successful. The insurance companies would howl, but this time their legislative lapdogs on the Right will be much more concerned with saving their own political skins than with placating the insurers.

Of course, repealing the mandate is not going to happen before the midterm elections. The legislative calendar is just too short. It might be brought up as an issue in the political arena before the elections, but it isn't going to make any legislative progress until afterwards. Democrats might not be inclined to vote for repeal in the next Congress, because the effort will be seen as a Republican one, and Democrats would likely not be happy about "giving the Republicans a political victory." Also, there is the bunker mentality which says the issue is the start of a slippery slope of repealing the entire healthcare law. Democrats may adopt a "circle the wagons" defense of the whole bill, and fight the repeal of the mandate tooth and nail. This would be a mistake, as I see it.

President Obama would also face a choice, if Congress passed a mandate repeal and put it on his desk. No matter what happens in the midterms (no matter which party holds which houses, in other words), he's still going to have enough Democrats in both houses to sustain his vetoes. Meaning he could fight hard for the mandate, and veto any repeal which crosses his desk. This would also be a mistake, as I see it.

Of course, Obama and the rest of the Democrats would have to eat a little political crow during the repeal effort. They'd have to essentially admit "we were wrong about this part," which is never easy for a politician to do. But, in the end, they would benefit politically by going along with the Republicans on a limited basis -- repealing the mandate, not repealing the entire law. Man the barricades and fight for the rest of it, in other words, but dump the mandate part with grace.

No one issue in the healthcare law which actually exists in reality (unlike, say, "death panels") has galvanized the opposition to such a degree. And this opposition is winning the argument in the public arena. The individual mandate has no natural constituency behind it other than the insurance companies themselves. Outside the Beltway, Republicans hate it, independents don't like it, and (at best) Democrats are lukewarm on it. Getting rid of the mandate won't kill the entire healthcare reform law. I hate to say it, but the Right is right on this issue. Jettisoning the mandate is a good idea politically, and the Democrats should realize it and get behind it themselves. It removes a potent issue from the political debate (and from the courts), leaving behind much better issues for Democrats to draw lines in the sand on (again, like eliminating "pre-existing conditions"). Democrats have a choice -- they can either throw their support behind the issue, or wait until after the elections and watch the Republicans talk about it for approximately the next six or seven months, before they repeal it without Democratic help. Getting on board sooner is the smart thing to do in this case.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

32 Comments on “From The Archives -- Dump The Individual Mandate”

  1. [1] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Well, you sure did call that right, Chris. More of your party's elected officials need to read your stuff. Nice clear-headed, politically astute, on-the-money thinking. If only the rest of your whacky party members could be so rational.

  2. [2] 
    dsws wrote:

    I like what I said in the comments the first time around:

    "It would end the talk of constitutionality by healthcare reform critics.

    Pull the other one. It has bells on."

  3. [3] 
    Michale wrote:

    I really just have one question to ask..

    WHY

    All up and down the line, Americans were against ObamaCare... Every poll showed time and time again that, while Americans DID want healtcare reform, they overwhelmingly stated that ObamaCare wasn't it.

    ObamaCare is NOT what the people wanted..

    So... WHY did Democrats push it thru???

    Anyone with more than 2 brain cells to rub together HAD to have seen what the result would be...

    There are a few possibilities..

    Democrats misjudged the American people and their despisement of ObamaCare.

    Democrats actually believed their own press that ObamaCare would do exactly what they wanted to think it would do..

    Democrats didn't care about anything but putting a WIN in the column, even if it meant a huge LOSE down the road..

    Those are the only 3 possibilities that I can think of to explain why Democrats pushed thru, by hook or by crook, legislation that was completely and unequivocally unpopular with the American People..

    There is a 4th possibility, but that's too far out in space to even consider....

    Michale.....

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    Why do you suppose the individual mandate was made part of this legislation?

    And, yes, this is quite a leading question.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Michale,

    I am quite sure that, on this issue, Americans don't really understand what they want and they wouldn't know how to go about getting it if they did.

    And, if they are waiting for this administration to explain it to them like they're six year olds, they had better prepare for a very long wait.

  6. [6] 
    Michale wrote:

    I hate to say it, but the Right is right on this issue. Jettisoning the mandate is a good idea politically, and the Democrats should realize it and get behind it themselves.

    BOOOM!! HEAD SHOT!!

    Why can't everyone here on CW be as honest as this when it comes to acknowledging that their Party doesn't have all the right answers...

    It would be nice to see this coming from EVERYONE, rather than the very VERY few..

    Ya'all remind me of Fonzie, who just can't say he was wrong....

    But you hit the nail on the head, CW... AGAIN.

    Democrats didn't back down on dropping the mandate because their egos wouldn't let them..

    And their egos are going to cost them the 2012 Election and control of Congress and, likely, the White House..

    Can you imagine what the political fallout is going to be when the SCOTUS rules that ObamaCare is unconstitutional?? And SO close to a presidential election.

    And, with Obama playing footsies with the Russians behind the back of the American people......????

    These ads really just write themselves..

    It's almost as if Obama is TRYING to lose the election...

    Michale.....

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:

    Liz,

    Why do you suppose the individual mandate was made part of this legislation?

    It was a bribe to the Insurance Companies to get their backing for ObamaCare...

    I am quite sure that, on this issue, Americans don't really understand what they want and they wouldn't know how to go about getting it if they did.

    I quite agree with you on this.

    However, while it's true that Americans are a fickle bunch and we don't really know what we want, it's ALSO true that we do know absolutely and unequivocally what we DON'T want...

    And, it's been made so crystal clear that Americans did NOT want an Insurance Mandate...

    Democrats would have been wise to heed this..

    "{They} chose..... poorly"
    -Knight, INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE

    Michale

  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    "..you could no more solve the issue of the uninsured with an individual mandate than you could cure homelessness by ordering people to buy a home."
    -Presidential Candidate Barack Obama, 2008

    http://harndenblog.dailymail.co.uk/2012/03/supreme-irony-obamacare.html

    It's funny how so many of Obama's own words are coming back to bit him on the arse...

    Michale.....

  9. [9] 
    Michale wrote:

    Obama's biggest problem is that he is not just Sandra Fluke's President or Trayvon Martin's President.

    Obama is also Bristol Palin's President. Obama is also George Zimmerman's President.

    Obama seems to have forgotten this...

    Michale.......

  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Forget HUNGER GAMES...

    In Washington DC, the movie to watch is SPIN GAMES...

    "There's a significant school of thought that the administration is -- puts them in a better position for the election if it's turned down."
    -Harry Reid

    "I think this will be the best thing that has ever happened to the Democratic Party"
    -James Carville

    Looks like even Democrats are seeing the writing on the walls and are trying to get a jump on the spin..

    Gods, you just have to marvel at the complete, unequivocal and utter BULLSHIT that comes out of these people's mouths...

    :D

    Michale...

  11. [11] 
    Michale wrote:

    Speaking of COMPLETE and UTTER bullshit...

    "This is Treyvon Martin. Trayvon Martin's murderer is still at large. It's been one month, thirty days, with no arrest. I want America to see this sweet young boy who was hunted down like a dog, shot in the street, and his killer is still at large.

    Not one person has been arrested in Treyvon's murder. I want to make sure that America knows that in Sanford, Florida, there was a young boy murdered. He is buried in Miami, Florida, and not one person has been arrested even though we all know who the murderer is. This was a standard case of racial profiling. No more! No more! We will stand for justice for Treyvon Martin.
    -Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Florida)

    Why isn't ANYONE from the Left addressing this complete and utter crap??

    It has absolutely NOTHING to do with reality. It is absolutely NOTHING more than Race/Hate Mongering for political gain..

    Is this REALLY what the Democratic Party stands for???

    REALLY!???

    Where is our President in all this?? Why isn't he putting a stop to all this racist crap coming from Democrats???

    Michale.....

  12. [12] 
    akadjian wrote:

    I am quite sure that, on this issue, Americans don't really understand what they want and they wouldn't know how to go about getting it if they did.

    While there's likely some truth to this, Liz, polls show that Americans understand there was a healthcare issue.

    The trick is this:
    1. Corporate lobbyists shut down some of the best options (single payer, public option)
    2. The health care companies said that in order to cover people without insurance, it has to be mandated, so that people will contribute their fair share. This is how insurance pools work. Otherwise, no one will buy insurance until they get sick. That is, everyone will act like Ayn Rand.

    I think it actually wouldn't be the end of the world if the mandate were struck down. And ... believe it or not, it might help Obama because healthcare would not be an issue come November. Also, we might have to take a look at health care again. If we did, I'd push for a better way to do things. Clearly, the "free" market didn't work.

    -David

  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    1. Corporate lobbyists shut down some of the best options (single payer, public option)

    Let's be fair, David.. While it is arguable that a Single Pay/Public Option is "best", there are too many FACTUAL horror stories coming out of countries that DO have such healthcare for Americans to be comfortable about it.

    Even if you could find an example of a "perfect" Single Pay/Public Option healthcare program in another country, America has a unique set of circumstances that might not lend itself to what works elsewhere..

    And ... believe it or not, it might help Obama because healthcare would not be an issue come November.

    While it won't be an "issue", it will be a HUGE black mark against Obama and the Democrats..

    The ONE big grand achievement crowed about by Obama and the Democrats for two years...

    Ruled unconstitutional...

    For years, Obama and the Democrats have said "A", "B" and "C" about ObamaCare.. Republicans have been saying "D" "E" and "F" about ObamaCare...

    And now the SCOTUS comes along and rules that Republicans have been right all along...

    Yea, it may not be an ISSUE come November...

    But you can bet it will be campaigned on far and wide...

    Michale.....

  14. [14] 
    akadjian wrote:

    And for the record, Michale ... I still don't think it will be struck down for this reason:

    it might help Obama because healthcare would not be an issue come November

    Although it's not looking good for the home team :)

  15. [15] 
    akadjian wrote:

    there are too many FACTUAL horror stories coming out of countries

    Where are these "factual" horror stories coming from, Michale?

    From right wing/corporate media with a vested interest in propping up failed business models.

    Look at things statistically, Michale. If you ignore the 'fear' and look at statistics, countries with government run health care provide much better health care at lower cost.

    Do you want to know the reason for the horror stories?

    Because some corporations are making lots of money off of health care and don't want to lose it. Cue the marketing folks ...

    Remember hearing similar propaganda about the banks ... another failed business model. Oh, but we can't let them fail.

    Similarly, we have to help out the health care companies by mandating insurance. If they need that help, something is broke.

    -David

  16. [16] 
    Michale wrote:

    I understand what you are saying, David..

    And you are correct, as far as you go. By declaring it unconstitutional, the SCOTUS will be eliminating it as a campaign "issue"...

    However, while it may not be an "issue", it WILL be a huge black mark against Obama's Re-election bid..

    And I think THAT will hurt him more than ObamaCare as a campaign issue...

    In other words, if the SCOTUS ruled that ObamaCare is fine and dandy, constitutionally speaking, then Obama could at least point to a success...

    But, if the SCOTUS rules against ObamaCare, then all he has is an abject failure...

    Now, it's true. Obama can point to other "successes".. Bin Laden, DADT, there are a few out there.

    But NONE involve so much effort, so much prestige, so much political clout that went into dragging ObamaCare over the finish line...

    ObamaCare is a hundred DADTs, a thousand Bin Ladens...

    If Obama loses ObamaCare, Obama loses the election..

    And, don't forget. There is still Holder v Arizona waiting in the wings...

    Michale.....

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    Look at things statistically, Michale. If you ignore the 'fear' and look at statistics, countries with government run health care provide much better health care at lower cost.

    For example......???????

    As for the "stories", the are coming from factual events...

    Mother's having babies out on the street because there is no room for them in the hospital..

    People waiting YEARS for surgeries..

    People DYING because rationed healthcare is the order of the day...

    These aren't "stories" in the sense that they are fiction.

    They are true events that have happened and will continue to happen..

    Don't get me wrong. Single Pay/Public Option sound really REALLY good on paper.. As with SOOO many things pushed by liberals and progressives, everything is peachy keen wonderful (as my lovely wife says) when one discusses theory...

    But when the rubber meets the road, when these theories, these GRAND ideas are put into practice....

    "It's like two lepers arm-wrestling. You push too hard and BBBBLlLLLLLeeeeecccchhhhh it all falls apart."
    -Robin Williams, LIVE AT THE MET

    We may have a crappy system that is overly expensive and doesn't meet the needs of everyone..

    But it is, by far, the best system going...

    And, if we could just get rid of Democrat's favorite piggy bank, the Trial Lawyers, the system WOULD work better and WOULD be more streamlined and WOULD be less expensive..

    But Democrats won't go there because Democrats need the Trial Lawyer's money...

    Michale.....

  18. [18] 
    Michale wrote:

    And, don't forget. There is still Holder v Arizona waiting in the wings...

    And, I am constrained to point out, Holder doesn't have a hugely successful track record either..

    Fast & Furious, Civilian Trials For Terrorists, Michigan Militia....

    Holder is one walking and talking LOST CASE after another...

    Michale

  19. [19] 
    akadjian wrote:

    For example......?

    http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/6/28/49105858.pdf

    We may have a crappy system that is overly expensive

    Yes.

    And if you'd be willing to consider that just maybe, just maybe, there's a conflict of interest between making a profit and providing health care insurance, I'd consider that maybe there are some thing we could do to reduce litigation.

    -David

  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    "One way or another, Congress will have to revisit it in toto"
    -Justice Antonin Scalia.

    "..it would be an "extreme proposition" to allow the various insurance regulations to stand after the mandate was struck down."
    -Justice Anthony Kennedy

    Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they shared the view of Scalia and Kennedy that the law should stand or fall in total.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-justices-poised-to-strike-down-entire-healthcare-law-20120328,0,2058481.story

    Yer right, David.

    It doesn't look good for the Home Team...

    Michale.....

  21. [21] 
    Michale wrote:

    And if you'd be willing to consider that just maybe, just maybe, there's a conflict of interest between making a profit and providing health care insurance,

    Willing to consider it?? Hell, I don't have to.. I agree 1000% with the statement...

    While there are a few people who become doctors to actually help people, the vast majority become doctors for the money...

    So, if we make it so doctors get paid the same as, say a cop.... How many people do you think would become doctors??

    The same could be said for lawyers...

    But we really don't need lawyers.... :D

    We have to deal with how things are, rather than how we would like them to be...

    If we want to tackle rising healthcare costs, it seems to me that the EASIEST thing to do first is to NOT make healthcare profitable for lawyers...

    This would eliminate the TWO biggest costs to healthcare.. Outrageous Malpractice Insurance and Defensive Medicine costs..

    If Democrats were to address THOSE issues first that would show the American people that they are actually SERIOUS about healthcare reform...

    Let Democrats address THAT problem first.

    Then they would find that the rest would come so much easier.. Because they will have PROVEN their commitment to reform...

    Michale....

  22. [22] 
    Michale wrote:

    It has absolutely NOTHING to do with reality. It is absolutely NOTHING more than Race/Hate Mongering for political gain..

    Is this REALLY what the Democratic Party stands for???

    REALLY!???

    I can always tell when I have people around here by the {factual} short and curlies...

    They get vewy vewy quiet... :D

    Michale.....

  23. [23] 
    Michale wrote:

    It's kinda hard to figure out where Democrats are coming from today...

    Are the pushing the ObamaCare narrative to cover the disgusting actions by Democrats over Trayvon Martin??

    http://l.yimg.com/bt/api/res/1.2/ggFC2q8OZN5xKvxoDIdSZA--/YXBwaWQ9eW5ld3M7Zmk9aW5zZXQ7aD0zNDI7cT04NTt3PTUxMg--/http://media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/ap_webfeeds/d64cfcaddd5137080b0f6a7067001b1b.jpg

    Or, are they being overly disgusting over Trayvon Martin in order to push the ObamaCare "plane wreck" off the front page of Drudge??

    Michale.....

  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:
  25. [25] 
    Chris1962 wrote:

    Sounds like the entire law is headed down the crapper. So how are the Dems planning on spinning this, if indeed the mandate (or, better yet, the entire law) end up dead? Another brilliant chess move on the part of Obama? ROFL!

  26. [26] 
    Michale wrote:

    "Mr. Kneedler, what happened to the Eighth Amendment? You really want us to go through these 2,700 pages?"
    -Justice Scalia

    :D Now THAT was funny!! :D

    Sounds like the entire law is headed down the crapper. So how are the Dems planning on spinning this, if indeed the mandate (or, better yet, the entire law) end up dead?

    Oh, the spin is already in the can...

    See {10} THE SPIN GAMES

    Michale.....

  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    CB,

    Sounds like the entire law is headed down the crapper. So how are the Dems planning on spinning this, if indeed the mandate (or, better yet, the entire law) end up dead? Another brilliant chess move on the part of Obama? ROFL!

    I can just see the Obama-Bot Pundits column....

    "OBAMA THROWS THE SCOTUS MATCH AS PART OF HIS 11-DIMENSIONAL CHESS GAME"

    Denial is NOT just a river in Egypt.... :D

    Michale.....

  28. [28] 
    Michale wrote:

    OH.... MY.... GODS!!!!

    Seriously!!!????

    The Spin Masters are busy at work over at the White House...

    The Individual Mandate is becoming "The Personal Responsibility Clause"...

    While I must be honest and say that it IS a good-sounding name for it, from a marketing perspective, they picked a HELLUVA time to send up THAT trial balloon...

    It's like the First Mate Of The Titanic (I.P. Freely) suggesting that they should use iceberg resistant steel, as the ship is breaking apart...

    The time to bring up such a great idea was before the damn thing was sinking all to hell...

    "Something that would HAVE BEEN GOOD TO KNOW YESTERDAY!!!!!!"
    -Adam Sandler, THE WEDDING SINGER

    :D

    Michale.....

  29. [29] 
    Michale wrote:

    “The Affordable Care Act is a bipartisan plan and one that we think is constitutional”
    -Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest
    http://freebeacon.com/white-house-tries-to-rebrand-mandate/

    TRANSLATION: Ignore that man behind the curtain. We are at war with Eurasia. We have always been at war with Eurasia.

    The Administration simply REEKS of desperation. It's coming off of them in sheets, in waves....

    Michale....

  30. [30] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    How's this for everyone:

    All American citizens should have the same health insurance Dick Cheney has.

    Heh.

    Michale [28] -

    I actually agree with you. The "Personal Responsibility Clause" would have been excellent spin, about two years ago.

    It really is a good soundbite, as it turns the original Republican argument back against them (see Wednesday's column). It could have worked.

    Like you said: if someone had thought it up about two years ago.

    -CW

  31. [31] 
    Michale wrote:

    CW,

    All American citizens should have the same health insurance Dick Cheney has.

    Works for me! :D

    I actually agree with you. The "Personal Responsibility Clause" would have been excellent spin, about two years ago.

    "Yes, Virginia. There IS a Santa Claus"

    :D

    Yea, it seems that everything with the Administration over ObamaCare is a day late....

    Ya gotta admit, finally embracing the term "ObamaCare" and calling it their own, the week before it is totally decimated by the SCOTUS??

    Moronic.... Completely moronic...

    Michale....

  32. [32] 
    akadjian wrote:

    The Individual Mandate is becoming "The Personal Responsibility Clause".

    I hadn't seen that either. And you're right, Michale & CW, that would have been a much better way to frame it.

    Conservatives framed it as a "mandate" to fit it in with their "government is trying to make you do it" argument. And to their credit, they've done a much better job in the court of public opinion.

    -David

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