Let’s Compromise Over Obamacare!

Among other things, Ted Cruz’s long-but-not-actually-a-filibuster-speech happened to hit on an actual problem with Obamacare: the employer mandate. Basically, it requires employers to pay the subsidy costs for low-income workers who end up getting health insurance through the exchanges. It’s designed to be an incentive for employers to continue providing health coverage of their own, but it also provides an incentive not to hire workers from low-income families and not to hire workers for more than 30 hours a week. That’s bad. As it happens, there’s not much evidence in the data that it’s actually having a substantial effect, but it’s still a bit of a mess. Ezra Klein comments:

If Republicans are really worried about these businesses and these workers, they could help them. Unlike defunding or delaying Obamacare, or even delaying the individual mandate, this is a concession Republicans really might be able to get the Obama administration to agree to. They’d be on the right side of both the policy and the public. The question is whether they actually want to help these workers or just grandstand against the law.

Well, I think we all know the answer to that question. Republicans want Obamacare to fail, and they want it to be unpopular, so they’re actively opposed to doing anything that would make it work more smoothly. Reforming or repealing the employer mandate doesn’t fit that strategy.

But this suggests an interesting exercise: What aspects of Obamacare could be genuine targets for compromise between Democrats and Republicans who were operating in a semblance of good faith? Democrats already agreed to jettison the CLASS Act, for example, after it became clear that it was unworkable. They’d probably be willing to do something about the employer mandate, and the business community would certainly support that. Democrats would probably also agree to fix a glitch that excludes church health plans from eligibility for the exchanges.

What else? The big ticket stuff, like the individual mandate and the subsidy levels, is off the table, but there must be plenty of smaller items that could be horsetraded over. Somebody should make a list and see if any Republicans are willing to engage in actual conversation about it. I’m not in much doubt about the outcome, but all the opinion in the world isn’t as good as actually checking to find out.


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