Is The Debate Over Repealing The Affordable Care Act Over?

April 3rd, 2014

On April 1, after announcing that 7.1 million people signed up for Obamacare (totally unclear how many of these people paid, and how many were previously uninsured) the President made a statement that has ginned up a lot of controversy:

“The debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay.”

“In the end, history is not kind to those who would deny Americans their basic economic security. Nobody remembers well those who stand in the way of America’s progress or our people,” Obama said.

James Taranto sums up the outrage:

“This is President Obama’s Mission Accomplished moment,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas tells “Jimmy Fallon Mocks ObamaCare’s ‘Mission Accomplished’ Charade,” according to a headline. While the host of “The Tonight Show” didn’t say “mission accomplished” in last night’s monologue, he was scathingly sarcastic about the White House’s declaration of victory. On Monday Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin observed: “It is entirely possible that we will look back on today’s deadline and administration celebrations about enrollment as Obama’s version of George W. Bush’s infamous ‘mission accomplished’ moment after Iraq.”

It is really, really hard to make judgments about how things will be viewed in the future. Writing Unprecedented has disciplined me to pay very close attention to day-to-day events, but keep in perspective the big picture. At the times of the Bush “Mission Accomplished” photo, it wasn’t clear how infamous it would be. I would urge the same caution for Obama’s statement saying the debate over repeal is over.

I recall (though I couldn’t find it) that shortly after Obama signed the ACA in March 2010, at some event, the President said something to the effect of “the debate over healthcare reform is over.” He couldn’t be more wrong.

Though, beyond the descriptive element of whether the debate is over, Obama was also sending a message–Don’t debate this anymore. Obamacare is here to stay. On that front, I think he is entirely wrong. The GOP will continue to fight this law. Even if things are going well today, once people receive more cancellation notices, receive reduced coverage, and find that the doctors they like are no longer in network, there will be more hostility towards the law. The fact of the matter is, very few people who were previously uninsured are now insured. The  majority of the 7.1 million are people who were previously uninsured. And if they now are paying higher premiums (in many states) for lower quality, people will exert a desire for an ex ante status quo.

So let’s keep everything in perspective.