Around 1 pm today, the House will vote on Rep. Fred Upton’s “
Keep Your Health Plan Act” which would grandfather in all plans up until January 1st, 2013 and allow insurers to continue selling those plans outside of the exchanges. The bill is certain to pass, but many pundits are watching carefully for the number of Democratic defections.
Obama’s intent for the administrative “fix” that he announced yesterday was to reassure panicking congressional Democrats that he will not let Obama doom them in 2014. Many repeated his “if you like your plan, you can keep it” lie and now have to face their angry constituents. Obama tried to shoulder most of that blame and offer those Democrats a political scapegoat for their broken promise. This vote is indicative of how worried Democrats are about the law.
Ultimately though, Upton’s bill doesn’t matter. Neither does Sen. Mary Landrieu’s or the House Democrat’s. These pieces of legislation are very unlikely to pass. Kevin Drum explained this clearly:
This is just a quick note to anyone who’s worried and/or hopeful that Congress will pass some kind of legislative fix for people whose health insurance has been canceled due to Obamacare. It won’t happen. Republicans are interested only in Obamacare’s failure and will refuse to support any Democratic bill that genuinely addresses the problem. Conversely, Democrats are interested only in improving Obamacare and relieving the political pressure they’re feeling. They will refuse to support any Republican bill that contains an obvious poison pill. Unless I’m missing something, the intersection of these two positions is the null set. Thus, there is no bill that can pass Congress.
Even if something were to miraculously pass, Obama still can veto the legislation.
That means that Obamacare is here to stay. No matter how angry Republicans feel or scared Democrats get, Obama has full power over the law. He’s in control.
This was a bad week for the president. He’s lost the trust of congressional Democrats and was forced to announce a “fix” that infuriated both insurers and liberals alike. His approval rating is dropping and many Americans feel deceived. In the end though, nothing much has changed. The law’s fate will be determined by the success or failure of Obamacare on its merits.
The first step, obviously, is to get the website working. Every day that passes without major improvements is another day closer to the law collapsing under the weight of an IT failure. Here, as well, the White House has control. Its on them to figure this thing out. If they don’t, the law fails. That has always been the case from day 1. It’s certainly more likely to happen now that we’re seven weeks into the open enrollment period and most Americans still cannot use the site. But nothing that happened this week changes those underlying facts.
The next step is the substantive policy in the law. Assuming the administration eventually gets Healthcare.gov working, then the initial arguments over enrollment and rate shock return. Do enough young people sign up? Are people receiving better coverage? Etc. Obamacare was always going to be evaluated on those questions. Once again, nothing about that changed this week. Obama’s “fix” is unlikely to seriously undermine the law, partially because insurers do not seem to be taking him up on his offer and partially because the policy implications of it are not as fatalistic as some have reported.
So even if dozens of House Democrats vote for the Upton bill today, ultimately that doesn’t matter. What’s truly important, as it has always been, is the substantive policy results of the law. Nothing about that has changed.
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