The Repealers


Steve Benen had a good rundown yesterday of the pressure conservative activists are putting on politicians to say they’ll “repeal” health care reform. This strikes me as very unlikely to happen. To see why, you have to ask what “repeal” would mean. Nobody’s going to mount a challenge to an incumbent member of congress by promising to start letting insurance companies deny more claims, or charge women higher premiums. You could promise to repeal Obama’s death panels, but that would be hard to follow up on since they don’t exist. You could promise to repeal the provision forcing hospitals to be more transparent about what they charge but . . . why would you do that?

The juicy political target to hit would be the individual mandate which certainly can easily enough be made to sound like a terrible thing. And this would probably make reform unworkable if you could do it. But industry players aren’t going to want that. Nor is anyone going to want to see lower subsidies for middle class families.

What does seem realistic is that future, more conservative, congresses might do other kinds of conservative stuff that will impact health reform. Rather than repealing the specific tax provisions that finance reform, you’ll see drives to cut taxes for the rich. Rather than bringing back the good old days of rescission, you’ll at a minimum keep hearing talk about the idea of de facto gutting insurance regulation by “selling plans across state lines.” And instead of complaints about how reform is going to blow up the deficit, you’ll see a combination of tax (cut! cut! cut! especially for the rich) and spending policies that do in fact blow up the deficit. But nothing will be “repealed.”