Monday, January 17, 2011

The DNC's Talking Points on Repealing Obamacare

Cross-posted from Critical Condition on National Review Online.

As Republicans assumed power in the House of Representatives, vowing to repeal Obamacare, Democrats began readying for an intensive campaign to oppose them. With this in mind, the Democratic National Committee released a set of talking points with which they hope to persuade the public that Republican repeal efforts are misguided. Let’s see what the DNC’s sharpest operatives came up with:
Instead of working to find bipartisan solutions to create jobs, grow the economy, and make America more competitive, Republicans in Congress are spending all of their time re-fighting the political wars of the last two years by trying to repeal health reform and give control over your health care back to insurance companies. The Affordable Care Act provides Americans with more freedom and control in their health care choices.
The Democrats claim that labeling PPACA a “government take-over” is unfair. But the above paragraph gives the game away: to the degree that insurers no longer “control” health care, it’s because control has been consolidated in Washington. It’s great that Democrats claim to want to “provide Americans with more freedom and control in their health care choices,” because from a policy standpoint, providing Americans with more freedom and control means adopting free-market policies: creating a truly free, individual market for health insurance, in which consumers control their own health spending.
• [PPACA] gives families the freedom from worrying about losing their insurance, or having it capped unexpectedly if someone is in an accident or becomes sick.
Unbeknownst to many, due to spin from Obamacare advocates, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, passed in 1996, already contains all of the consumer protections that Obamacare claims to institute anew. If we had a true individual market for health insurance, in which people bought policies for themselves instead of getting them from their employers, HIPAA would never have been necessary.

Prohibiting lifetime caps on insurance payouts will drive up the cost of insurance for everyone, essentially forcing individuals to buy extra insurance that they, in all likelihood, will never need.
• It frees Americans from the fear of insurance companies raising premiums by double digits with no recourse or accountability.
This is perhaps the most ridiculous claim on the whole list. Health-care costs are not rising because of greedy, profiteering insurers. They are rising because socialized medicine incentivizes people to use more health care than they need. As Obamacare does nothing to address the rising cost of health care, insurers will continue to be forced to pass these costs onto policyholders.

As to the issue of recourse and accountability: every state in the Union has an insurance commissioner, who is responsible for reviewing and approving rate increases. Obamacare installs a redundant layer of federal regulation atop this system.
• It frees Americans from discrimination when insurance companies deny women health insurance because they are pregnant, or refuse to provide coverage to children who are born with disabilities.
Allowing women to buy insurance after they are pregnant, instead of beforehand, goes against the very nature of insurance: paying a small amount now to avoid financial risk in the future. It will incentivize women to wait until they are pregnant to buy insurance, driving up the cost of insurance for non-pregnant women.

Requiring policies to cover children born with disabilities is actually a good idea, as it will mitigate the need for subsidized high-risk pools, and reduce a significant incentive for abortion. Republicans don’t have a problem with this.
• It provides parents the choice of providing health coverage for a child after they finish school.
This is an Orwellian description of the PPACA provision that requires all new health plans to cover a worker’s “adult children” until they are 26. “Mandate” is an antonym of “choice.” This insurance mandate, like all the others in Obamacare, forces people to buy insurance they may or may not need: driving up the cost of insurance for everyone.
• It provides people the freedom to change jobs without worrying about losing one’s health insurance, or even retire a little earlier without having to worry about losing one’s coverage.
As described above, HIPAA already provided these protections, protections that an individual insurance market would achieve by definition. Contrary to the above bullet point, Obamacare-driven tax increases have incentivized companies to drop private coverage for their retirees, dumping more people into Medicare.
• It provides seniors with the freedom to get the care they need, including free preventive care, lower cost prescription drugs, and Medicare that they can count on.
Again, note the Orwellian equation of mandates with “freedom.” Closing the “donut hole” for prescription drugs under Medicare will destabilize the program by encouraging seniors to spend more on drugs than they need to, driving Medicare further into insolvency.
• And, it gives small business owners the power of competing with large employers by providing small business tax credits to make employees’ health coverage more affordable, and by increasing their purchasing power through competitive private health insurance Exchanges.
Obamacare, by driving the cost of insurance even higher with its numerous mandates, incentivizes employers to drop coverage for their employees so they can receive federally subsidized insurance. According to Dan Danner, president of the National Federation of Independent Business, “fewer than one-third of small businsesses” even qualify for the tax credit, which only lasts for a maximum of six years anyway.
• Finally, it frees our children from the threat of out-of-control government debt and deficits by holding government accountable for its spending. Independent estimates show it will reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars by cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse, and stopping hundreds of billions in unfair and irresponsible subsidies to insurance companies that are now paid by taxpayers.
If you believe this, then I have a trillion dollars of subprime debt I’d like to sell you. I, among others, have addressed this issue at length. Democrats have had two years to persuade the voters that Obamacare will reduce the deficit, and have gotten pretty much nowhere.
These new choices, freedoms and options are only possible because the Affordable Care Act holds insurance companies accountable.

With this law, insurance companies can no longer overcharge for insurance just to boost their profits and CEO bonuses. They won’t be able to deny women coverage because they are pregnant, something they classify as a preexisting condition. The law has already stopped them from denying kids coverage if they are born with a medical problem or disability. And insurance companies can no longer use fine print, or legal tricks to deny medical treatments that are covered under people’s policies.

Now, Republicans in Congress want to unravel the law that holds insurance companies in check.
Even before Obamacare, health care plans were one of the least profitable industries in America, with profit margins consistently in the 4-6 percent range: lower than those for brewers, railroads, and utilities. The idea that insurer profiteering is behind rising health costs is patently ludicrous, and you won’t even find many left-of-center health policy experts who believe it.

It’s already illegal for insurers to “deny medical treatments that are covered under people’s policies,” because that would be a violation of the insurance contract. Insurers — and consumers — have a legitimate need for protection against those who intentionally omit information about preexisting conditions from their insurance applications. Obamacare eliminates those protections, thereby allowing unscrupulous consumers to game the system, driving up the cost of insurance for everyone else.

A better reform would be to allow people to buy insurance for themselves, in a national market, where independent consumer groups can criticize plans that have worrisome fine print.
• The insurance company lobbyists are working overtime with Republicans to return to the days when insurance companies were free to do whatever they want, including raising premiums and imposing higher costs on families and businesses to protect their CEO bonuses and corporate profits.
This is simply dishonest rhetoric from the DNC. The idea that health insurance was an unregulated jungle before Obamacare came along would come as news to every state insurance commissioner. Obamacare is the best thing that has ever happened to special interests and lobbyists; increasing government control of the health care industry requires industry participants to spend more of their money on politicians’ campaigns instead of health care.
• Republicans will allow insurance companies to once again DENY coverage to children with existing conditions, CANCEL coverage when people get sick, and LIMIT the amount of care you can get − even if you need it.

• When the insurance companies are free to pursue their profits without any accountability, people have fewer choices, fewer options, and little recourse.

• And, by rolling back the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are adding a TRILLION dollars to the deficit.

• They would give back to insurance companies subsidies of hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars. And they would cut back on efforts in the law to stop waste, fraud, and abuse in government spending. We can NOT afford to add another trillion dollars in debt that our children and grandchildren will have to pay – especially when it goes to wasteful spending and outrageous subsides for insurance companies.
Republicans are opposed to stopping “waste, fraud and abuse in government spending”? That’s a good one.

Liberals have long complained that the reason that Obamacare is unpopular is because Democrats haven’t spend enough time communicating why the law is so great. But the DNC’s talking points illustrate the real problem: the more people learn about the law, the less popular it becomes.


  1. MS at the Economist disagrees with you.

    Most parts of the ACA poll positively, which you know. Anyway, it might be a good time for you to post your thoughts on what you think the GOp should do after repeal fails. What politically feasible things should they do? What would they be willing to do considering their lack of interest when they controlled legislation?


  2. AWESOME article. Thank you for this, keep up the work.

  3. Hi Steve,

    This Economist piece makes no sense to me -- not sure what it's trying to argue.

    This canard about "most parts of the ACA poll positively" -- yeah. So, if Congress passes a measure saying all restaurants must serve free Bordeaux to all of their customers, it might poll great. If the poll also asks, "are you ok with the government taxing you $50 a head extra to pay for the Bordeaux"? It won't poll as great. So this "the ACA polls great if you take out all the bad stuff" to me is a very weak argument.

    As to what the GOP should do, I talk about this a lot on this blog, as you know.

    1. Eliminate the employer tax exclusion
    2. Convert Medicaid into a cash welfare payment
    3. Means-test Medicare and index it to life expectancy and migrate it to a FEHBP or defined-contribution model

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  5. If we had a true individual market for health insurance, in which people bought policies for themselves instead of getting them from their employers, HIPAA would never have been necessary.
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