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Still Fighting Over Obamacare

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012

For all practical purposes, this summer’s Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, plus the results of this month’s general election, mean that the ACA — Obamacare — will go fully into effect in 2014. But the detractors are not giving up.

As I wrote recently, a number of Republican governors are refusing to have their states create insurance exchanges. As of last week a dozen governors are official Obamacare refusniks. These include Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Perry of Texas, and Mary Fallin of Oklahoma. Another dozen Republican governors have not declared what they are going to do.

The insurance exchanges will enable people and small businesses to find the best deals on health insurance. This is going to be vital when the requirement to be insured goes into effect in 2014. The mandate to buy insurance will make it possible to require insurance companies to accept everyone as a customer, regardless of pre-existing conditions. After 2014, no insurance company can refuse to insure you, even if you have a life-threatening condition such as mesothelioma cancer. The insurance exchanges are a key to making this work, and if states don’t set them up, the federal government will do it for them.

Utah’s Republican Governor Gary Herbert is going in a somewhat different direction. Utah has had an insurance exchange in effect since 2009, before Obamacare even was passed into law. However, the Utah exchange doesn’t match federal requirements. It serves only small business, not individuals, and it provides no consumer protection from ripoff policies that provide little coverage.

But Governor Herbert has let it be known Utah isn’t going to change its exchange. In effect, he is daring the Obama Administration to make him comply with Obamacare.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, House Repubicans are still calling for a repeal of Obamacare. Speaker John Boehner is demanding that cuts to the ACA be included in any deal to ward off the “fiscal cliff.” “We can’t afford it, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge,” Boehner said.

The House has voted to repeal Obamacare more than 30 times now. And every time another repeal bill is introduced, Speaker Boehner sends it to the Congressional Budget Office to find out what the repeal bill will do for the federal deficit. And every time, the CBO tells Speaker Boehner that repealing Obamacare would add at least $100 billion to the federal deficit.

That’s right; the ACA/Obamacare contains a great many cost-saving provisions, and if the act is repealed the federal deficit will go way up, not way down. Yet Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans ignore the CBO and continue to shriek that Obamacare must be repealed because we can’t afford it.

But the House Republicans have little political leverage. Most Washington observers believe the White House would prefer to go off the cliff than allow House Republicans to weaken the Obamacare.