Ted Cruz Tips GOP Hand on Healthcare Reform?

Just before the midterm election, I wrote a pretty misinformed post about how broken the US health insurance system is. While my level of due-diligence when it comes to the protections afforded by the Affordable Care Act was pretty lacking, I did then–and still do have some serious concerns about whether the pre-existing condition protections will continue to stand in the future.

On election night, I saw TX Senator Ted Cruz on ABC News say the following:

“The Obama economy isn’t working… People want leadership… Now that the Republicans have won the majority, it’s encumbent on us to stand up and lead.”

(“Uh oh, here we go,” I thought.)

When asked, “And what happens to Obamacare?” Cruz answered: (emphasis mine)

“I think Republicans should do everything humanly possible to stop Obamacare…

“I think we need to follow through on the promises that the Republicans made on the campaign trail. We need to start by using reconciliation to pass legislation repealing Obamacare, and then if President Obama vetos that we should systematically pass legislation addressing the greatest harms from Obamacare. For example, passing legislation saying that you can’t have your healthcare cancelled, you can’t lose your doctor because of Obamacare. Passing legislation saying you can’t be forced into part-time work because of Obamacare, like so many people have been, especially single moms have been hammered by Obamacare on that. Passing legislation saying, ‘No insurance company bailouts under Obamacare.’ And teeing those up one at a time, and forcing the President to come to a decision: Will he listen to the overwhelming views of the American people, or will he simply try ot veto them one after the other, after the other? If he does the latter, that’ll be a real mistake, and I very much hope he doesn’t.”

Basically what I hear in this is that the republicans have a game plan for attacking Obama politically, and it’s centered around the Affordable Care Act. Specifically:

  1. Try to repeal it wholesale. Knowing that this will never happen, move to step 2:
  2. Initiate a massive campaign to “inform” people of what they’re “losing” because of the ACA (a.k.a. Obamacare).
  3. Systematically misrepresent protections as causing hardship for middle-class swing voters in blocks that the GOP needs to win back (“single moms” for example), so they’ll hopefully swing to the Republicans in 2016.

The theory represented in step 3, as teed up by steps 1 and 2, is that the ACA is unbearably expensive for small businesses and insurance companies, and that therefore small businesses are forcing people into part-time work (so they don’t have to pay for insurance), and that insurance companies are going to go out of business and need a government bailout, with the implication that tax payers will have to foot the bill like they did for the (enormously unpopular) bank bailouts.

I don’t know that much about the impact to small businesses, so I can’t speak to that angle in a very fact-based way.

But I can tell you that the insurance companies are not in trouble. The ACA, via mandates to make insurance available, and the government health insurance market (Healthcare.gov) made the addressable market for health insurance much larger than it was previously. Insurance companies are not in trouble—to the contrary, under the ACA most experts agree that they’ll do better than they were before healthcare reform.

But if Ted Cruz and his colleagues can sell this sham to the American public, and force through limitations on the protections of the ACA, then we’re all in trouble. Especially those of us with pre-existing conditions, who are for the moment safe, but by no means no longer at risk.

But the real agenda is to discredit Obama and the Democrats, using healthcare reform as a lever to force Obama to wield his veto power. Cruz basically said as much on national television, on election night. And that’s step 4 and 5:

  1. Make grand overtures about working with the Democrats. A new era of cooperation! This has already started, and at least so far the Democrats are falling for it, based on cross-party meetings and public statements we’ve seen up to this point.
  2. Meanwhile, now that we (the GOP) control both houses, we can force Obama to veto our nonsense legislation, so we can claim that he and the Democrats are stonewalling and breaking promises, while we appear to be reasonable adults.

Here’s Senator Cruz in his own words:

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