Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Once the Supreme Court Rules on Obamacare, Who Benefits?

 

Philip Klein argues that the outcomes of the Scott Walker election and the Supreme Court ruling could make June a pivotal month for the 2012 election. He’s obviously right. But I disagree with his assumptions regarding how a Supreme Court ruling will play:

Even if the court merely overturns the mandate forcing individuals to purchase government-approved insurance policies, it would reshuffle the political deck ahead of the presidential election. Suddenly, Mitt Romney would have an easy retort to Obama’s efforts to tie the national health care law to the one Romney signed in Massachusetts — namely that the Massachusetts law was done in a constitutionally permissible way. Such a ruling would also strengthen the attack on Obama’s handling of the economy, because he will have spent more than a year of his presidency pushing health care legislation that turned out to be a waste of time.

If the Court does indeed strike down only the individual mandate (plus the requirements of guaranteed issue and community rating, as Obama’s Department of Justice has suggested they must), it will likely prove to be of little benefit to either party. While a portion of Obama’s law is struck, and that’s certainly a rebuke, it actually removes the aspect of the law which was most unpopular. According to Gallup, 70% of Independents and even 56% of Democrats think the individual mandate is unconstitutional. Kaiser has consistently found that a majority of all Americans believe the mandate will be ruled unconstitutional. Striking down the mandate lets the air out of the balloon, and less time will be spent talking about health care.

However, much of the rest of the law is more popular, and Obama will have the opportunity to tout those aspects without the political pain the mandate creates. In that sense, the Court may be throwing Obama a lifeline – he can go back to touting all the aspects of the law people like, ignoring the fact that the private insurance market is doomed, and just promising more candy and unicorns.

A partial strikedown also creates the most difficulty for Republicans, who will be forced to figure out what to do with a broken Obamacare. Klein correctly notes that the Court’s decision could “make a legislative repeal process either less arduous or completely unnecessary” – should the mandate alone be struck down, Republican replacement methods become far messier and more difficult. There’s already disagreement among Hill Republicans about which tactics to take. As I’ve noted before, the endgame here likely looks like some form of “improvement” for Obamacare, not full repeal and replace. And the base won’t like that at all.

So striking down the mandate would be a political wash. On the other hand, I think if the Court takes one of the other two options – either upholding the law or striking down the whole law – it hurts Obama dramatically. In the former path, because getting rid of him would be the only way to stop the mandate (which would be a great way for Republicans to make the case to independents), and in the latter because it would be a total rebuke to his policy approach.

In other words: Obama’s got no good outcome for the last week of June, but he could have a not-bad one.

There are 9 comments.

  1. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    I fear the court could take the easy way out.

    • #1
    • May 31, 2012, at 8:09 AM PST
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  2. Fredösphere Member

    Ben, yours is the first take on the political fallout of the upcoming SCOTUS ruling that has convinced me. It’s not exactly what I wanted to hear . . . but it’s convincing.

    • #2
    • May 31, 2012, at 8:19 AM PST
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  3. KC Mulville Inactive

    I can’t answer the politics of it … I barely know how it would affect my wife’s vote, never mind a hundred million voters. That’s for the political pros to speculate about.

    But for the actual policy side, I would rather the Republicans move one proposal at a time. I don’t like the idea of a comprehensive fix for everything concocted by staffers and then dumped on the public. It isn’t necessary to replace ObamaCare with RyanCare or BoehnerCare. Instead, work one step at a time.

    • #3
    • May 31, 2012, at 8:21 AM PST
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  4. Fredösphere Member
    KC Mulville: But for the actual policy side, I would rather the Republicans move one proposal at a time. I don’t like the idea of a comprehensive fix for everything concocted by staffers and then dumped on the public. It isn’t necessary to replace ObamaCare with RyanCare or BoehnerCare. Instead, work one step at a time. · 20 minutes ago

    KC, that would certainly be politically prudent, and ideal if workable (and if not done too slowly to save us). But, what is your take on the argument that some systems are too complexly interconnected to allow for piecemeal solutions? Do you know John Hoskyns’ wiring diagram?

    • #4
    • May 31, 2012, at 8:54 AM PST
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  5. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    Fredösphere: But, what is your take on the argument that some systems are too complexly interconnected to allow for piecemeal solutions?

    Yes, this is my question too. For instance, is the Pre-Existing-Condition bone connected (inextricably) to the Individual-Mandate bone?

    • #5
    • May 31, 2012, at 11:32 AM PST
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  6. Liberty Dude Inactive

    The rest of the law, while popular, is still quite bad.

    Forcing insurance companies to cover “preexisting conditions” at artificially low rates is just as immoral, if not as pervasive.

    On a side note, why do even some conservatives start talking like fascists when it comes to healthcare? Newt Gingrich, Romney, George W, etc. would never support the same ludicrous regulations for the clothing industry as they do for healthcare. A robber who steals for the sake of someone else’s medical bills is an immoral, evil person. Morality ends where the barrel of a gun begins.

    • #6
    • June 1, 2012, at 1:51 AM PST
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  7. James Of England Moderator
    Ben Domenech
    Severely Ltd.
    Fredösphere: But, what is your take on the argument that some systems are too complexly interconnected to allow for piecemeal solutions?

    Yes, this is my question too. For instance, is the Pre-Existing-Condition bone connected (inextricably) to the Individual-Mandate bone? · 

    That’s actually the government’s position too – the guaranteed issue + community rating bone, otherwise known as the snuffleupagus. ·

    Massachusetts offers some insight into this. Governor Weld passed the Non-Group Health Insurance Reform Act in 1996, which gave Massachusetts guaranteed issue and community rating, but without the mandate. This was a terrible idea, and Massachusetts healthcare costs have been rising rapidly ever since (the growth of costs has slowed somewhat after Romneycare added the mandate, but costs are still rising faster than in most states without either reform). Nonetheless, Massachusetts was able to go for about a decade with community rating + guaranteed issue + pre-existing condition exclusion regulations, and survived, albeit suffering massive hikes in healthcare costs.

    The question is not “can America do this?” Clearly America could, and some sick people would benefit,. The question is much more subjective. The mandate constitutionality is the easier part of the judgment to craft.

    • #7
    • June 1, 2012, at 1:55 AM PST
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  8. Man With the Axe Member
    Liberty Dude: The rest of the law, while popular, is still quite bad.

    Forcing insurance companies to cover “preexisting conditions” at artificially low rates is just as immoral, if not as pervasive.

    I agree. In fact, covering pre-existing conditions is not insurance, it’s welfare. It’s like buying a fire insurance policy after the house has burned down. If we could get away with that, we all would, and the insurance business would fold.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to provide help to people who have conditions that can’t be insured against, but we should leave the insurance companies out of it, and let them properly price their coverage for things that might happen.

    • #8
    • June 1, 2012, at 3:23 AM PST
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  9. Ben Domenech Contributor
    Ben Domenech Post author
    Severely Ltd.
    Fredösphere: But, what is your take on the argument that some systems are too complexly interconnected to allow for piecemeal solutions?

    Yes, this is my question too. For instance, is the Pre-Existing-Condition bone connected (inextricably) to the Individual-Mandate bone? · 44 minutes ago

    That’s actually the government’s position too – the guaranteed issue + community rating bone, otherwise known as the snuffleupagus.

    • #9
    • June 1, 2012, at 12:16 PM PST
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