National Politics | Politics | State Politics

Obamacare: How the GOP can turn the tables

OCare_PleaseWait_ScreenIn his typical smash-mouth political style, President Obama might yet snatch defeat from the jaws of shutdown victory with more petty, pain-inducing, lock-the-kids-out-of- White House-tours-style stunts like shutting down the WW2 memorial.  Still, this week should have belonged to Republicans.

The long-awaited Obamacare rollout was a disaster with glitchy exchanges not ready for primetime. Its computer system couldn’t even process fundamental tasks like security sign-in questions. The government can’t run a health care system? Who woulda guessed?

Yet, DC elephants are on the defensive over an ill-conceived government shutdown of their own making.

The GOP failure is a result of its lack of leadership in crafting a coherent message. But there is still time to right their ship. Begin with the shutdown where the Republicans stumbled into a winning strategy at the 11th hour after hopelessly trying to defund Obamacare.

“(We have) voted to fully fund the federal government and provide every American with a one year exemption from the individual mandate in Obamacare. . . similar to the one year delay in the employer mandate that President Obama gave to big business earlier this year.  We also voted to eliminate special provisions for Congress in the ObamaCare exchanges which are not available to the rest of the American people,” said Michigan Rep. Candice Miller, R-Port Huron, at 1 AM Tuesday as the government came to a halt.

That should have been the GOP message on Day One.

As for Obamacare, Republicans must recognize that the state exchange concept – an insurance pool for the uninsured – is sound. The trouble is the execution. The exchanges use the brute force of government to sign up customers. Better that Washington adopted the long-advocated GOP alternative of extending the insurance tax credit to individuals (not just businesses) so that insurance is portable job-to-job. That would give individuals the power to purchase health care on exchanges – indeed, the exchanges would already exist if tax law accommodated individual coverage.

The answer to affordable coverage is to get government out of health care, and consumer choice in. The GOP should advocate less federal intervention in the exchanges (which is why premiums are so high as I reported in a Detroit News editorial, “Obamcare sticker shock,” this week).

My ex-Detroit News colleague and Reason scholar Shikha Dalmia spells out the same strategy at the Washington Examiner:

Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, essentially online shopping malls where consumers can compare plans and prices . . .are larded with excessive mandates and regulations that will inflate premiums and limit coverage options for individuals. Republicans should start focusing on deregulating the exchanges so that insurers can offer more customized packages that genuinely serve customer needs at affordable prices. (And they should) end the $300 billion in health care tax exclusions that employers currently enjoy and hand health tax credits to individuals. One of the craziest aspects of America’s health care system is that while employers get limitless tax deductions when they purchase coverage for employees, employees paying out of pocket get no breaks, which unfairly boosts their costs.

Think smart and seize the moment, Republican leaders. Let the jihad-hurling, Obamacare-botching, “Party of Civility” implode.

Henry Payne
Henry Payne is the auto critic for The Detroit News. A 25-year newspaper veteran, Payne is also a Pulitzer Prize-nominated cartoonist with United Feature Syndicate, a former columnist and editorial writer for The News, and a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and other publications. His auto reviews appear every Thursday in the Drive section.