7 Reasons Health Care Repeal Is Unlikely

#1: The president isn't up for reelection next year

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Just because health care reform is about to become law doesn't mean the political fight is over. Politicians are bound to wrangle over the new law for years. Part of that is the Republican campaign to repeal the legislation. Calls for repeal are already coming from the Weekly Standard and National Review, not to mention some GOP lawmakers. Running against health care reform in 2010 political campaigns is one thing. But could Republicans really repeal the laws established by health care reform? Here are some key reasons they might not be able to:

  • Insurance Regulations Too Popular to Repeal  Former Bush speechwriter David Frum concedes, "No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the 'doughnut hole' and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?"
  • Requires 'Literally' Impossible Senate Majority  Matthew Yglesias laughs and laughs. "With repealing health reform the right-wing fetish point of the day, it’s worth observing that it’s literally not possible for Republicans to win enough Senate seats in 2010 to pass anything over Barack Obama’s veto." That would require the GOP hold 67 Senate seats, but even if they won every single election this couldn't happen before 2012.
  • But We Can't Wait For Republican President  Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey says that even if Obama loses reelection in 2012, which he admits is unlikely, by 2013 the reforms will just be too entrenched. "If we rely on repeal in 2013, it’s going to be something very close to too late." He says the effects of reform will make "market-based reforms" favored by the GOP too difficult, that entitlements will be too popular, and that the process of repeal would be "too ugly" anyway.
  • Siding With Insurers? Pure Political Poison  The New Yorker's James Surowiecki warns that a repeal "will mean, literally, voting for allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, voting to permit rescissions, and voting to make it much harder for people who lose their jobs to stay insured. I have a hard time believing that advocating these things will be a political winner."
  • What Does Repeal Even Target?  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder shrugs, "But what to repeal? The 'bad' stuff -- tax increases and such -- kick in later. Most everyone who will feel reform's touch within the next year or so will get benefits, be it in the form of not having their coverage rescinded, or be it a $250 rebate check from the government." Repealing those benefits would be enormously unpopular. But repealing the delayed cost-control measures would dramatically increase the cost of health care reform and balloon the deficit, to which Republicans are opposed.
  • Would Narrow Republican Coalition  The Economist cautions that a repeal campaign might be "good for riling up the people who are already furious—and a likely turn-off for everyone else." It would thrill a small number of highly motivated Republicans, but it wouldn't win over a new majority, which is exactly what they'd need to actually repeal it.
  • Entitlements Are Just Too Popular  The Atlantic's Megan McArdle sighs, "The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected.  If they didn't--if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission--then the legislative lock-in you're counting on wouldn't exist."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.