Politics

The Democrats’ New Copperheads

Pro-Obamacare defiance won't save them.

By 3.28.14

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Colorado Senator Mark Udall didn’t get the memo (penned by Alex Sink, no doubt): Standing up for Obamacare isn’t exactly a winning strategy for Democrats in 2014. In an interview with Colorado Morning News (on 850 KOA in Denver, where my Saturday radio show airs), Senator Udall said that given the opportunity he would vote for Obamacare again. Likely Republican nominee Congressman Cory Gardner is already running an ad featuring the Udall interview, letting the incumbent’s words speak for themselves.

Never one to miss parroting a DNC talking point, when asked about an Americans for Prosperity ad running in Colorado tying Udall to the health care law which “just doesn’t work,” Udall attacked the Koch brothers, saying the billionaire supporters of pro-liberty candidates “really don't have the interest of Coloradans in mind.” (Udall didn’t get this memo either.)

Given Udall’s near-perfect record of voting with the Obama administration, it seems that the Kochs care more about my family’s welfare than Mr. Udall does; Mark wasn’t satisfied with voting in favor of the president’s policies 96 percent of the time in 2012, so he upped it to 99 percent in 2013.

Almost responding to host Steffan Tubbs’ question whether Udall would “still cast that vote” for Obamacare, Udall, again reading from this week’s Democrat script, said “The law is far from perfect,” but when pushed again he did actually answer the question: “I would do it again. Yes, I would…I think, look, if I were there I would say here are some things that we should have done differently…”

One has to wonder what part of Udall’s “Yea” vote on Obamacare on December 24, 2009 would support his strange hypothetical, “if I were there.” Just where do you think you were, Mark? I mean, pot wasn’t even legal in Colorado in 2009.

And why didn’t you say you’d do some things differently at the time?

But frankly, what choice does Mark Udall have? “Would you vote for Obamacare again” is a loaded question, the political equivalent of “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

This is not to say that Udall, along with every other Democrat in Congress, doesn’t deserve the question; rather that they don’t have any elegant way out of the mess they’ve stepped in by blindly following the wishes of our nation’s most radical president and echoing his snake oil salesman pitch (that analogy made with apologies to snake oil salesmen everywhere).

But saying “I would vote against it if given another chance” is nearly as perilous an answer as what we’re hearing from every Senate Democrat (with the possible exception of West Virginia’s Joe Manchin): that they still support it in concept but would improve certain details and implementation. After all, “I would vote against it” obviously calls for the questions “Then why didn’t you when you had the chance?” and “Were you just not doing your job when you voted for the most consequential legislation in recent history without reading or understanding it?”

Vulnerable House and Senate Democrats appear to be betting their political futures on consistent results in recent polls, such as a Kaiser Health tracking poll released on Wednesday, which suggest that Americans, other than Republicans, are substantially more interested in “improving” the law than in repealing it. Showing just how little the public trusts Republicans, there is more support for repealing the law without replacing it than for replacing it with a Republican-sponsored alternative, and that’s true even within the GOP. (Can you say “rebranding”?)

Given their lack of good choices, six Democratic senators, including the likely-to-be-ex-Senators Mary Landrieu (LA) and Mark Begich (AK), yesterday put forward a list of proposed changes to Obamacare.

The first proposal, which Sen. Begich suggested last year, would add a “copper plan” to the current list of bronze, silver, gold, and platinum plans — which are indeed priced like Tiffany products rather than “affordable” insurance. A copper plan will offer even higher deductibles and co-pays than are already found on Obamacare exchanges in return for lower monthly premiums.

But this is not a solution to those Americans who want decent and reasonably priced health insurance. And it is particularly ironic in light of the president’s repeated denigration of “junk” and “substandard” plans. These plans will be fit for the lot at Sanford & Son. But at least you’ll get a free mammogram.

A “copper plan” will look a lot like a catastrophic care plan which requires the policy holder to pay many thousands of dollars out of pocket before the insurance kicks in. For a low enough monthly premium, this can make sense.

Unfortunately, the raft of Obamacare’s “essential health benefits” which require a health insurance plan to include, among other things, maternity coverage (even for middle-aged men and menopausal women), mental health and drug rehab coverage, and “oral and vision care” will cause the copper plan to be as expensive as a more traditional, non-catastrophic plan used to be prior to Obamacare.

So the main purpose of a copper plan will be to serve as the least expensive way to avoid the annually increasing penalty (even Ezra Klein noticed!) for not complying with the individual mandate. The monthly premium will be a constant reminder of Democratic coercion.

Redistribution of income from some Americans to others will cause the copper plan, like all plans, to appear less expensive to lower-income policyholders. But many of those people will still not be willing to pay even the subsidized premium levels, especially for a policy that, unless there is a true medical disaster, is not much different from having no insurance at all — except for all that great “free” stuff. Indeed, Kaiser reports that half of the uninsured intend to remain uninsured following the March 31 non-deadline to have coverage.

Other proposals from the frightened Democrats include:

  • The laudable and long-supported-by-Republicans idea of allowing interstate purchase of health insurance (although the price differences among states may not be as large as they used to be due to the Obamacare coverage mandates mentioned above);
  • Increasing the duration and availability of certain small-business tax credits for health care;
  • Allowing Obamacare registration and subsidy availability through websites other than HealthCare.gov; and
  • Funding state-based non-profit health insurance co-ops.

For two reasons in particular, these so-called solutions — even in the unlikely event that these bills reach and are signed by President Obama — will not help Democrats in November.

First, they add complexity to a situation that American voters and consumers already find bewildering. From impossibly confusing regulations to inevitable cutbacks in hiring and work hours to the never-ending delays and rule changes (even Politico noticed!) to a website that many still don’t trust (in terms of functionality or security), piling more bureaucratic manure on the biggest cow pie in modern legislative history hardly removes its stench.

Since every Democratic member of Congress has already stepped in it, they’re trying everything they can think of to start afresh with voters. But they seem not to have noticed that copper isn’t prominently featured in the supermarket cleaning aisle.

Second, just because Americans claim to prefer reform to repeal does not mean they forgive Democrats for this incredible mess. It’s one thing to tread in bovine digestive refuse; it’s another thing to make everyone else do it with you with deception such as “you can keep your plan” and “pass the bill to find out what’s in it.”

When November arrives, the question for Obamacare-focused voters who see an incumbent Democrat on the ballot won’t be “how are you going to clean this up?” but “why should we trust someone stupid enough to step in it in the first place?”

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About the Author
Ross Kaminsky is a self-employed trader and investor and is a senior fellow of the Heartland Institute. He is the host of The Ross Kaminsky Show on Denver's NewsRadio 850 KOA on Saturday mornings from 6 AM to 9 AM. You can reach Ross by e-mail at rossputin(at)rossputin(dot)com.