Quick, did you see that? Senate Democrats just pulled another Washington wink-wink on Obamacare. For those who might need a refresher, the WWW is the old standby of professional Washington politicians from both parties when they need to look like they are doing something concrete when in fact they're just blowing smoke. In the present case, Senators Mark Warner of Virginia, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia are offering a package of Obamacare “fixes.” Maine's independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with the Democrats, is also a co-sponsor.
The fixes include the creation of a cheaper “copper” health insurance plan that would be added to Obamacare's present lineup of “gold,” “silver” and “bronze” options, as well as removing the employer coverage mandate for companies with less than 100 employees and encouraging state insurance regulators to think about allowing interstate sales of health insurance policies. These “mend it, don't end it” proposals are meant to allow Democrats to triangulate between blind support for the increasingly unpopular health care law and Republicans vowing to repeal and replace it if voters give them control of the Senate as well as the House in November.
Warner, Landrieu and Begich will probably talk about these proposals more frequently than the others because the three face formidable Republican challengers this fall. Obamacare is particularly unpopular in Louisiana and Alaska, and even in purple Virginia 52 percent of the public disapprove of it. North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan also faces a tough re-election campaign this year, so expect her to say nice things about the fixes even if she doesn't actually sign on as a co-sponsor. Other Democrats who fear that Obamacare could complicate otherwise easy re-election campaigns will follow suit.
But it’s smoke and mirrors. Even if all of the proposed fixes were to become law, they only address the outer edges of the stinking mess that is Obamacare, including skyrocketing premiums, administrative chaos, unworkable state exchanges and soaring taxes required to pay for it. Worst of all, the fixes can’t reverse the damage done by the president's three big Obamacare lies: you can keep your present health insurance plan if you like, you can keep your doctor, and your premiums will be cheaper. None of that will be made right by adopting “mend it, don’t end it” fixes.
The most likely outcome is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will never allow the full Senate to vote on the proposals. Reid has long been an advocate of a fully socialized, single-payer health insurance system and he views Obamacare as an essential interim step. Reid also knows how to read public opinion polls, and he knows how unpopular the program is, especially in red states like Louisiana and Alaska. If he were to allow votes, if even one of the fixes were approved, it could be the crack in the dike that makes repeal of Obamacare inevitable. That may be what America wants, but it's not what Harry Reid wants.