Can Democrats Defend Health Care From Repeal Campaign?

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It's no secret that the new Republican Congress has made a top priority of repealing the health care reform law passed last year. House Republicans, who have a controlling majority, are even scheduling votes to roll back the measure. On January 12, the House will vote on "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act." But can they really succeed? Should they? Now that the New York Times says Democrats are working "on all fronts" to defend health care reform's popularity, it would seem at least an acknowledgment that the challenge is, or could be, somewhat serious. Here's what observers are saying today about the brewing war.

  • Dems Ready 'All Fronts' Defense of Law  The New York Times' Michael Shear writes, "Democratic leaders in Washington plan to spend the next week doing what they all but refused to do in the 2010 midterm elections: mount a vigorous defense of President Obama’s health care legislation. The 'all fronts' plan is a response to the decision by the new House speaker, John A. Boehner, to schedule a vote next Wednesday on a complete repeal of the health care law." Democrats say "the repeal vote puts a big target on Mr. Boehner's back" because repeal would take away "tangible" parts of the plan that have already been implemented.
  • Dems Will Go On Offense  The Washington Post's Greg Sargent writes, "talking points return to a heavy emphasis on tying the GOP to the hated insurance industry, a message we heard frequently during the 2010 campaign. By repealing reform, Republicans would once again allow the industry to wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary Americans by depriving them of safeguards against specific industry abuses." He says that "The push suggests again that Dems expect this fight to drag on for months, and even years."
  • What Repeal Would Actually Mean  The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn says of the Congressional Budget Office's score of repeal, "According to one of our most reliable and nonpartisan authorities, repealing the Affordable Care Act would mean higher deficits plus insurance that is less comprehensive, less available, and in many cases more expensive." He elaborates: "repeal would increase the federal deficit by around $230 billion in the next decade and by an even larger amount after that." Additionally,
Premiums for people buying coverage on their own would fall a bit, but only because people were getting less protective insurance and because many with pre-existing conditions would be locked out of the market altogether. And even though premiums would be lower, many people buying coverage on their own would still end up paying more for their policies, because they would not benefit from the enormous subsidies that the Affordable Care Act makes available.
  • Isn't This Deficit Hypocrisy?  Think Progress's Matthew Yglesias points out, "Today the CBO announced that HR 2, the 'Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act' will increase the budget deficit considerably. This should come as no surprise to those of us who recall that the CBO said passing the Affordable Care Act would reduce the deficit." He sighs, "Obviously the fact that neither conservative politicians or voters care about long-term deficit reduction isn't news. But still!"
Don't bet on that $230 billion. The health-care law will require billions in new spending. It relies on the expectation of billions in savings from slowing the growth of health-care costs and assorted cuts and taxes -- all guaranteed to produce howls of outrage, and a burst of lobbying, from the affected interests. Health-care reform, done right and with steadfastness that is not always forthcoming from the legislative branch, could be a huge contributor to reducing the deficit. But the costs of the new law are far more certain than the savings. Anyone who's spent any time in Washington knows better than to assume that health-care reform will end up as a money saver.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.