Obamacare: Will it collapse on its own?
Now that the GOP’s health-care bill has “crashed and burned,” President Trump has a massive decision to make, said Jordan Weissmann in Slate.com—what to do with Obamacare? Trump has said that when the Affordable Care Act “explodes,” Democrats will be eager to strike a deal. But the law is unlikely to collapse under its own weight. While the reluctance of young, healthy people to sign up has prompted several major insurers to pull out—resulting in steep premium increases—the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently concluded that the system would “naturally stabilize” in most areas of the country. So if Trump wants Obamacare to fail, he may have to “sabotage it.” That’s easily done: His administration could dramatically reduce enrollment by refusing to enforce the individual mandate. Or the government could drop its defense of an Obama-era lawsuit against government payments to insurers—a “nuclear option” that would almost certainly tear apart the marketplace.
Bad idea, said Jennifer Rubin in WashingtonPost.com. Trump thinks Democrats will take the blame if Obamacare fails—but he’ll be the one in charge when millions of people lose their insurance. Besides, deliberate inaction would “shift the onus back onto Republicans” to craft an alternative, and the recent fiasco proved they have no idea how to do that. Trump would be much better off trying to improve Obamacare, said Paul Krugman in The New York Times. The program has turned out to be “remarkably cheap,” costing about 33 percent less than originally expected; if Trump spent “a bit more money” on subsidies, enrollments would improve and premium prices would drop. He could also “revive the idea of a public option”—government-run insurance like Medicare—for states with few insurers. That’s the only way for Trump to “honor his campaign promises about improving health coverage.”
Don’t hold out for “a bipartisan kumbaya,” said Philip Wegmann in the Washington Examiner. Democrats want Trump to seem incompetent, so they won’t work with him; besides, Trump can’t enrage conservative lawmakers because he needs them to pass other legislation. Ultim ately, Obamacare can be changed and improved, said Jonathan Chait in NYMag.com, but the biggest problem Republicans face is that people who have health insurance like it. The law’s “central triumph, creating a federal right to access to basic medical care, will never be taken away.” ■