Calling Their Bluff

Posted by | February 28, 2011 16:15 | Filed under: Contributors Opinion Politics Sandi Behrns

by Sandi Behrns

Republican governors have been grumbling about provisions of the Affordable Care Act ever since its passage last March. Their arguments include the supposed “unconstitutionality” of the individual mandate (originally a Republican idea) and the fact that they believe a magical combination of tort reform and health savings accounts (HSAs) would be the better route to controlling costs and making health care more accessible. Today President Obama called their bluff.

Speaking to the winter meeting of the National Governors’ Association, President Obama announced he will support amending the ACA legislation to allow states to opt-out of provisions such as the mandate three years sooner than previously allowed–in 2014–rather than in 2017,  if they can prove their own plans will cover as many people as the original law would and at the same cost. That’s a big if.

If you can come up with a better system for your state to provide coverage of the same quality and affordability as the Affordable Care Act, you can take that route instead…

If your state can create a plan that covers as many people as affordably and comprehensively as the Affordable Care Act does, without increasing the deficit, you can implement that plan and we’ll work with you to do it.

On its face, this is a fairly significant turn-around of administration policy. It’s also very savvy. Obama is calling the GOP bluff on health-care. Essentially, he’s saying, “Okay, try it your way:  implement your tort reform, set up your HSAs, get rid of that awful mandate and let’s see how effective your program really is.”  This isn’t a gamble for Obama; there is simply no chance that GOP proposals will ever control costs and expand coverage adequately enough to meet this challenge. Instead, the administration can sit back and watch Republicans actually try to craft something that works, rather than bashing what Democrats devised.

This could be a very interesting experiment. Of course, it would first require the passage of an amendment through both the House and Senate. With the GOP still obsessing over repeal rather than adjustment, it remains to be seen whether Speaker Boehner would bring this to the floor. Assuming he would, it’s also possible that just enough Republicans know that it’s all a ruse that the amendment could fail, either through GOP votes against or (more likely) “poison pill” provisions to get Democrats to defeat it for them. Get the popcorn!

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Sandi Behrns

Sandi Behrns is a noted policy nerd, new media & web developer, and consultant to progressive organizations and campaigns. She is a senior contributor to Liberaland, and the Executive Editor of Progressive Congress News.

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