Deregulate, Defund, Delete

The WSJ outlines what the Republicans might do to health care reform if they make the gains they hope for:

Business groups have compiled lists of impeding regulations they hope to see stopped under a GOP House majority.

“We need to establish the proverbial lines in the sand and show we are serious about limited government,” said Wisconsin’s Rep. Paul Ryan, a leading conservative who is in line to chair the House budget committee if Republicans take control.

Hmm.  Many of the regulations will be set by HHS, and that’s going to remain under the auspices of the President, no matter who wins in November.  If the Republicans hope to pass new laws to set regulations, they are going to find (as the Democrats did) that’s easier said than done.  They may have a majority in the House, but it won’t be huge, and keeping everyone in line will be difficult.  And even if they have a majority in the Senate, which doesn’t look too likely, they would have to overcome a filibuster to pass new laws.

On to plan number two:

The White House concedes that Congress’s withholding funds would be a threat to the health-care law, but argues such a strategy could backfire with consumers, particularly if it threatened to nix popular provisions, such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26.

“What the Republicans will be faced with is really taking those benefits away,” said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services. “They will have to face their constituents who have their children enrolled on a family plan and say, ‘That can’t happen anymore.'”

Now a majority in the house could defund some of the PPACA.  But the things that have already gone into place, or might in the near future, are near-universally popular.  Who is going to go tell seniors that they aren’t going to get their donut hole rebate checks?  Who is going to go tell parents that they are going to have their children expelled from their insurance.  Who is going to reinstate lifetime limits?    These are not going to make the Republicans popular.

And, finally, short of repeal (which has absolutely zero chance before 2012), there are attacks to remove provisions from the bill:

Republicans would also bring to a vote measures that attack the law’s least popular parts, including the requirement that most Americans carry health insurance and cuts to payments for privately run Medicare plans. Such other stand-alone bills would struggle to get through the Senate. But House Republicans say they will bring them to the floor anyway to pave the way for a broader attack on the health law should they recapture the White House in 2012.

Gutting the mandate and removing cuts to Medicare Advantage may seem popular, but I don’t think they’ve thought this through.  Do they have any idea what the CBO report would look like on that?  It would likely show an increased cost for the insured, fewer people covered, and – wait for it – an increase to the deficit.  A big increase.  Not to mention that removing the mandate will hurt private insurers who will be unable to prevent individuals from “gaming” they system and getting insurance only after they’ve become ill.

We have been over this before, but all of this is questionable.  The law only works (as well as it can) if you keep all of its parts together.  Removing any one piece may make for good politics, but it makes for terrible policy.  In this case, I’m not even sure it will make for good politics.

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