Those who oppose Obamacare talk about delaying, altering or repealing the law. Yet, without the power that only an election can mandate, those are mere disorganized mumblings.
At some point that mandate could materialize, but until that day arrives, what opponents of the law really need is to offer is a pathway out of Obamacare.
Predicting that Obamacare will be a train wreck has short-term political value. There is a possibility the law will derail itself. However, relying on that possibility alone could prove insufficient. Even if Obamacare crashed and burned, its opponents are at risk of ultimately failing unless they are prepared to deal with its residue and remnants.
Free-market policymakers should start picturing what the status of Obamacare is likely to be a year from now, or even several years from now. Sooner or later, many Americans might find themselves thoroughly disgusted with the law while at the same time being fearful of losing access to health care if the law were to suddenly vanish. The danger is that without a clear pathway out that fear might outweigh the disgust.
If Obamacare is as bad as its detractors claim, what large numbers of Americans will be seeking in the future will not only be an alternative, but a bridge leading from Obamacare to that alternative. To be politically viable this bridge will have to be in a comprehensive form around which its adherents could rally.
A list of possible reforms within Obamacare might gain popular support in the months and years ahead. But to maximize the impact of this, such a list should only be a starting point. From a political perspective, these reforms — and hopefully other changes — would work best as part of an overall escape plan. A single and identifiable plan, focused on more choices and flexibility, would be easier for the public to embrace than a loose collection of ideas.
With all the rhetoric about Obamacare churned out over the past five years, it can be difficult to have a clear picture of what it actually is. It is not government just now getting into the business of health care. Government has been up to its eyeballs in the American health care system for decades.
Obamacare is health care becoming totally immersed in government. It is aimed at converting the health care system into a complex and multi-layered government program.
Most of the worries about Obamacare aren't about it creating new problems. Realistically, what's to be feared most about it is the possibility (some would say probability) that the problems of the pre-Obamacare system, including costs, will be 20 times worse under Obamacare.
Assuming Obamacare turns out to be the train wreck that so many believe, arguments for a less centralized system will no longer be in the abstract. Reactions to the Obamacare experience could make the free market arguments come to life.
The difficulties of creating such a plan should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, the task is worth the toil.
(Editor’s Note: Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Michigan Capitol Confidential. He is a veteran Lansing-based journalist. His columns do not represent viewpoints of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy or Michigan Capitol Confidential.)