Opinion: Daily Journal

They’ve Always Favored Delay

Democrats have always been in favor of delaying the implementation of Obamacare.

North Carolina’s junior senator Kay Hagan, up for reelection in 2014, supports a two-month delay in the enrollment deadline. So do several other Democrats running for election or reelection to the U.S. Senate next year. Their colleague, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, supports a yearlong delay. The Obama administration has already effectively delayed the enforcement of the individual mandate by six weeks.

Previous allegations that Democrats opposed delaying Obamacare were misprints and malquotes. They will be corrected.

Long ago, in the bygone days of early October, the president and his congressional allies only seemed to reject the idea of delaying the individual mandate. In actuality, they simply didn’t want to reward brazen Republican attempts to link the implementation of Obamacare with federal budget issues. When Republicans pointed out that Obamacare had passed into law in 2010 through budget reconciliation — making it, quite literally, a federal budget issue — Democrats responded that 2010 was even longer ago, in even more bygone days, and that now the two are no longer related issues.

And when Republicans further argued that one of the president’s selling points for Obamacare was that it would reduce the federal budget deficit by $140 billion through 2019, Democrats pointed out that the latest Congressional Budget Office estimate showed only $4 billion in deficit reduction through 2019, unnoticeable in a multi-trillion-dollar federal budget. This new plusgood estimate proves that Obamacare isn’t really related to the federal budget debate.

Democrats have always been in favor of delaying the implementation of Obamacare. They had merely delayed their public support for a delay.

For months, Obama administration officials and congressional leaders knew that the website for federally run insurance exchanges would be a mess. But prematurely instituting a delay in the 2014 deadline for compliance with the individual mandate, while arguably a reasonable response to administrative headaches, would have subjected the American people to distressful thoughts — excuse me, to ungood think.

Similarly, while insurance companies, health care providers, and other interested parties became increasingly worried that software glitches, complexity, and high cost would deter healthy people from enrolling in exchange insurance plans, creating adverse selection problems for the resulting insurance pools, government officials reassured them that their financial risk would be mitigated.

For one thing, few people of any age or health condition are actually enrolling in private plans. Most signups to date are for Medicaid. Furthermore, while President Obama had initially claimed that his health reform plan would reduce America’s health care spending by $200 billion a year — which would have inherently meant less revenue to insurers and providers — the latest estimate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services forecasts that Obamacare will actually increase total health care spending by $70 billion a year. This plusgood estimate will help offset any financial hit insurers and providers might take during the interim.

Democrats have always been in favor of delaying the implementation of Obamacare. A delay will reduce the number of people who realize they will be fined for noncompliance — no, sorry, taxed — during an election year, thus boosting the Party’s prospects and protecting the program from future meddling by a Republican Congress. A delay will also make sure that uninsured Americans with limited English proficiency, limited access to the Internet, and other disadvantages are treated fairly.

And it will give consumers plenty of time to see that outside the exchanges, the individual and small-group market for health insurance is being regulated out of existence. As good citizens, they will come to accept and embrace the reality that America’s economy and health care system are being transformed at a fundamental level. They will understand that Obamacare will make them “free,” the Newspeak word for being liberated from the need to make decisions for themselves, while forgetting the Oldspeak word “free” that meant the absence of governmental constraint.

Democrats have always been in favor of delaying the implementation of Obamacare. And we have always been at war with Eastasia.

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Hood is president of the John Locke Foundation.