This week, I listened to a Republican state senator try to convince a Tea Party audience that the Obamacare “exchange” legislation Gov. Rick Snyder has recommended is really a positive good and a “conservative” idea. The presentation didn't seem very coherent, and neither does a set of talking points currently being circulated by GOP exchange proponents. These are chock-full of buzzwords like “conservative” and “free market,” along with claims that the exchange will “lower costs” and “ensure choice, fiscal prudence and competition.”
As I listened, a certain phrase leapt to mind: “Stockholm syndrome”: The psychological phenomenon wherein victims in a hostage situation come to sympathize and identify with their captors.
That presentation and talking points spread a lot of lipstick, but still can’t make this particular pig any prettier, because the “MIHealth Marketplace” they’re trying to sell is in fact nothing other than a virtual state “Department of Obamacare Administration” (DOOA). If there was no Obamacare, we wouldn’t be talking about any of this.
Here’s the mistake these Republican politicians are making: Presenting a gun-to-the-head set of bad choices as a positive good. The “hostage taker” in this case is the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s demand that if Michigan doesn’t set up its own "DOOA," the feds will set one up for us. Needless to say, most state policymakers, plus insurance companies and other special interests directly affected by the law, would much prefer the state version of this agency.
For most Michigan residents subjected to the PPACA’s mandates, budget-busting subsidies and eventual rationing, it really won’t matter that much whether the prefix to this state’s Department of Obamacare Administration is “U.S.” or “MI.” And since a reputable employer survey found that 30 to 50 percent of employers would drop health coverage under Obamacare, many more people will find themselves dealing with this entity than now realize.
Nevertheless, I have not argued that legislators should say “Hell no!” to creating an Obamacare exchange, but rather, “Heck not yet.” That’s because for a number of reasons, acting now might further entrench the law, making it harder to invalidate or repeal. One way it does so is by creating a state-based lobbying corps in favor of the law. These Republican “hostages praising the hostage taker” presentations confirm that not even GOP politicians are immune to being unintentionally subverted in this way.
More prudent then for the Legislature to wait until we discover whether Obamacare survives its oncoming encounters with the U.S. Supreme Court next June and presidential election voters next November.
The state exchange proposal now being fine-tuned in the Senate undoubtedly takes advantage of whatever narrow opportunities are available to insulate Michigan from at least a few of Obamacare’s innumerable destructive provisions. But enacting it now undercuts the much larger and more compelling priority of seeing the entire law tossed onto the ash heap of history’s big government mistakes.
That overarching goal must prevail over any minor risks and inconveniences involved in waiting to create an Obamacare exchange — or to discover we don't need one after all.