Delaying the Mandate is not an option

By the way, required reading on Obamacare is Megan McArdle’s blog at Bloomberg.

Welcome to November, where in just 30 days the federal government is going to admit that is still not ready. Still glitchy. Still a security risk.

It is possible, but I think unlikely, that the White House isn’t using this 30 day window to figure out and poll test the best possible exit strategy. Maybe not, but even the diehards will recognize that the impossible really is impossible. The president can say all day that America is going to land on Mars, but at some point even he has to admit that his rocket ship isn’t working.  Team Obama is probably figuring out how to best get out from under this mess in a way that minimizes political damage for the Democrats up for re-election in 2014.

Their best strategy is to pick a fight that casts Republicans in a bad light. And the easiest way to do that is to call for a bipartisan leadership meeting at the White House where it will be leaked that the President confidentially offers to delay the individual mandate for a year. Wasn’t this exactly what the GOP was demanding?

Now put yourself in John Boehner’s shoes.  What is the smart play?

If this contrite mea culpa is refused, Boehner looks greedy, unreasonable, or both. You can see the headlines now: GOP hostage-takers refuse to compromise! They still demand full repeal of the ACA!  But as I’ve explained, the offer is insincere. There can be no delay so long as the other parts of the ACA have destroyed the existing individual market for health insurance. Offering to delay is nothing more than playing hot potato with the millions of rate-shocked Americans. The delay won’t happen, but the blame game will.

Republicans should pre-empt this scenario with a smart strategy that talks about the substance of the mandate, not the flash of the website debacle.

This month is a historic moment of shocked pain. Peak attention is focused on the unfairness and duplicitousness of the ACA. Millions have lost their insurance — the boats are burned — and arguably half the population will suffer the same rate shock in years ahead. Delaying the mandate is more like delaying a torture session. The real option is to permanently change what is being mandated.

You know the old saying, “Mend it, Don’t End it”?  Well, the rallying cry here is “Declaw it, Don’t Delay it.”

The single best outcome for the public is to have their consumer freedom restored. It is nearly irrelevant whether the mandate and/or penalty are delayed. What is relevant or substantive is how much freedom the government is trying to restrict. Making old men buy maternity insurance? Making teetotalers pay for substance abuse counseling?

It will be a mistake to let the mandate be delayed, and not only because a bad precedent is set.  The GOP should make the point that delaying the mandate does nothing to help the self-employed parents who actually still need affordable insurance for their kids come January 1.  Right now, ACA is like an atomic bomb on the real health care market because it is trying to set up monopolistic regulatory power. To care for the most vulnerable Americans — working class entrepreneurs who live or die on the individual health care markets — economic freedom needs to be reinstated before it’s too late.

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