(Photo: Reuters/Mike Segar)
"Obamacare" is here to stay, liberal journalists and President Barack Obama recently argued in what may be a coordinated effort. They are only partly correct.
If Republicans are given the reigns of power, most of Obamacare, officially called the Affordable Care Act, can be repealed, but the GOP will have to take into account those who are now able to get health insurance because of the new law.
The Obamacare-is-here-to-stay theory is mostly based upon the notion that once government gives benefits to certain citizens (in this case, subsidies to purchase health insurance), it is difficult to remove that benefit. The reason is simple – those who receive the benefit are unlikely to vote for someone who took away, or promises to take away, their benefit.
On this point, the theory is correct. If Republicans are ever in a position to replace the ACA (and there is no guarantee they will be in the near future), they will need to account for those currently getting government assistance to purchase health insurance. To not do so would, essentially, be removing health insurance for some Americans (some of whom may be sick).
The Obamacare-is-here-to-stay theory is incorrect, though, in assuming that those benefits cannot be folded into a Republican replacement for the ACA.
There are already many Republican healthcare reform proposals that have been around for years. The insurance subsidies and some of the more popular aspects of the ACA can easily be included in a Republican plan that both repeals and replaces the ACA.
One reform idea, for instance, that was present in both healthcare plans of the Republican's 2008 presidential candidate, John McCain, and 2012 presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, was the notion of tax parity. Under current law, those who get their health insurance through their employers get a tax deduction that others, such as small business owners, do not get. A centerpiece of many Republican proposals is to provide the same deduction for everyone, regardless of whether you get your health insurance through your employer or not.
The ACA health insurance subsidies could easily be included in a reform plan that gives everyone who is not on Medicaid or Medicare a refundable tax credit to purchase health insurance. In doing so, the ACA would essentially be repealed and those who currently receive subsidies would continue to do so.