No 'slam dunk' for Republicans in November elections on health care issue

If my Republican friends are right, here is what will happen now:

The American people will rise up in outrage in this November's election. They will cast off the yoke of socialism that has been arrogantly foisted upon them by a Democratic president and Congress.

And maybe that's true. A lot of people are mad about this health care bill, which passed the House over the weekend and is almost a done deal.

But call me kooky: I think the Republicans actually have a tougher problem this November if the bill becomes law.

If it still falls apart somehow, then we'll have 1993-94 all over again, which is good for the Republicans. That was when their version of Scary Spice, also known as Hillary Clinton, tried to reshape the nation's health care on behalf of her president-husband.

The specter of the failed Clintoncare proved to be a great bogeyman for the Republicans. It helped them achieve success in the 1994 midterm elections, the year of the Contract with America.

But if Obamacare passes, the nation will have the beginning of something concrete to judge over the next few months.

For a lot of us, here is what will happen:

Nothing.

Traditional, employment-based insurance is not affected that much. The big scary monster will turn out to be a fiction.

Meanwhile, for some of us, here's what else will happen in the next few months:

• Parents will be able to start keeping their sons and daughters on their insurance until age 26, until they are out of school and established in their own life. This should be popular.

• Insurance companies can't cancel the coverage of Americans who get sick.

• No more denials of coverage for children because of pre-existing conditions.

• People with pre-existing conditions who can't get coverage elsewhere will be able to buy subsidized coverage from new, high-risk pools.

• Seniors caught in the Medicare Part D "doughnut hole" start getting a rebate.

• Early retirees too young for Medicare get some help.

• More preventive care covered without cost to patients.

• Tax credits to small businesses for up to 35 percent of their health-insurance costs.

So it is all well and good to campaign against "socialism." It is another thing to tell millions of Americans who will start enjoying these benefits before the election that it was a mistake, and they should want to give them back.

As for anything in this bill that stings? Well, most of that comes later. Penalties on individuals who refuse health insurance. Penalties on employers who don't provide it. Many of the taxes that are supposed to pay for it all.

Last, the strongest argument against the bill is that it is built with fake money. Reduce the deficit? Nuts. It would not be surprising if the entire cost, plus the inevitable huge overruns, were added to the national debt.

Short-term sugar, long-term trouble.

Which is exactly the Republicans' challenge. They will have to keep the public whipped up with ideology for seven months even as the public either starts to see some of the benefits of the bill, or else gets the idea it is not the end of the world after all.

I'm not saying they can't do it — just that it might not be the slam dunk that many of them this week are so confidently predicting.

No 'slam dunk' for Republicans in November elections on health care issue 03/22/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 22, 2010 7:58pm]

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