Can Entrenched Benefits Be Taken Away?

December 27th, 2013

A few weeks ago I blogged about whether Obamacare is entrenched, and discussed how another unpopular Medicaid Catastrophic Care entitlement was repealed.

A bit in today’s Times on how Republicans can pivot their attack now that millions have signed up for it addresses that question.

The enrollment figures may be well short of what the Obama administration had hoped for. But the fact that a significant number of Americans are now benefiting from the program is resulting in a subtle shift among Republicans.

“It’s no longer just a piece of paper that you can repeal and it goes away,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin and a Tea Party favorite. “There’s something there. We have to recognize that reality. We have to deal with the people that are currently covered under Obamacare.”

And that underscores a central fact of American politics since Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act during the Depression: Once a benefit has been bestowed, it is nearly impossible to take it away.

This is absolutely true. Any alternative to Obamacare could not scale back the entitlements already bestowed, such as bans on pre-existing condition discrimination. Also, no way we kick 26-year old pajama boy off of his parent’s plans. And a host of other benefits have to remain. So what to do from there?

The article suggests that many Republicans will be cooking up plans over the next year to offer as alternative as Obamacare continues to roll out, and perhaps, unravel.