For generations, it's been common for policymakers to tweak major new laws soon after they're implemented. After lawmakers created Social Security, they returned to the system repeatedly to make it better and more effective. The same is true of Medicare. Even "Romneycare" in Massachusetts received multiple touch-ups after taking effect.
And for the most part, this probably seems like common sense -- policymakers implement a major new law, they see how it's going, and they look for ways to modify it along the way to make it as effective as possible, keeping what works and tweaking what doesn't.
This traditional model hasn't applied to the Affordable Care Act, however, because congressional Republicans haven't let it. They don't want to "fix" the ACA; they want to destroy it. To go along with simple tweaks -- even minor changes they like, which will help consumers -- is to betray their commitment to hating Obamacare at all times and in all ways, rational thought be damned.
With this in mind, however, the AP has an item
this morning that raised some eyebrows on the right.
At the prodding of business organizations, House Republicans quietly secured a recent change in President Barack Obama's health law to expand coverage choices, a striking, one-of-a-kind departure from dozens of high-decibel attempts to repeal or dismember it. Democrats describe the change involving small-business coverage options as a straightforward improvement of the type they are eager to make, and Obama signed it into law. Republicans are loath to agree, given the strong sentiment among the rank and file that the only fix the law deserves is a burial. "Maybe you say it helps (Obamacare), but it really helps the small businessman," said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., one of several physician-lawmakers among Republicans and an advocate of repeal.
Remember, for conservatives, this isn't an acceptable response. If you help "the small businessman" by improving the way in which the ACA is implemented, you are, by definition, helping make Obamacare's implementation more effective. For the right, this is backwards -- the goal should be to make the ACA as punishing and ineffective as possible, in the process creating demand for destroying the law in its entirety.
In other words, for GOP lawmakers to make the law better is necessarily the same thing as making the politics surrounding the law worse.
It's why, for the last 12 hours or so, Drudge has condemned the move, after having seen the AP report. And in a sign of the times, House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) office is scrambling
to control the fallout.
The [Drudge] headline prompted nearly immediate push back from House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). According to the Washington Examiner, Boehner's office disseminated a statement mere hours after Drudge ran the lead story. In the statement, Boehner aide Kevin Smith insisted that the GOP hadn't expanded Obamacare, but repealed a piece of the law. Obama, according to Smith, signed a bill "that repeals from ObamaCare a harmful provision designed to prop up the law at the expense of families and small employers."
"Don't worry!" the Speaker's office is effectively arguing. "We swear we didn't do anything constructive on health care policy!"
It's really just a matter of perspective. Many in the private sector sought a change in the cap on deductibles for health plans in the small group market, and Democrats were amenable. Republicans liked the idea, too, so it was included in the "doc fix" bill on Medicare reimbursement rates. No muss, no fuss.
For the far right, this is evidence of helping "improve" the ACA. For the Speaker's office, this is evidence of "repealing" part of the ACA that Republicans didn't like.
The whole mess is a reminder of just how ridiculous health care politics can be in GOP circles.