John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


The Train Wreck

Posted on April 23, 2013

The healthcare train currently chugging down the tracks is going to crash, and it is not going to be pretty.

Originally Published in The Hill.

The healthcare train currently chugging down the tracks is going to crash, and it is not going to be pretty.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), the Senate Finance Committee chairman who helped design the healthcare reform bill signed into law by President Obama three years ago, was the one who initially called it a “huge train wreck.”

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, characterized the law as “beyond comprehension.”

Kathleen Sebelius, the person in charge of implementing the law, admitted that it would raise premiums, which undermines the very purpose of it in the first place.

The question today is how the Republicans can mount a campaign to successfully repeal ObamaCare and, in doing so, help their collective political fortunes.

House Republicans have voted more than 30 times to repeal this law, and those efforts have gone nowhere. Conservative activists continually lambaste Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) for not shutting down the government in pursuit of repeal, a dubious and counterproductive strategy.

Attacking the team that agrees with your position is no way to achieve your objectives, but unfortunately that is state of the modern conservative movement.

Opponents of ObamaCare need three things to achieve their objectives: patience, persistence and nonpartisanship. Let me explain.

The president’s law was cleverly designed. It implemented all of the politically popular things first — doing away with pre-existing conditions, keeping older kids on their parents’ insurance, giving away free birth control pills — and put off all of the nasty stuff until 2014.

The hope was that by postponing the pain, the Democrats could make it more difficult for the law to be repealed.

But patience should be a virtue for opponents of the law, because when the American people don’t like something put into law by the Congress, they have the power to get rid of it, through their elected representatives.

What that requires is persistence. It might make little sense to the media for congressional Republicans to keep voting dozens of times to repeal ObamaCare, but at some point, it will become more difficult for Democrats to vote to protect this increasingly unpopular law. At some point, the dam will break and the Democrats will flood to join Republicans to repeal this terrible law.

ObamaCare is having an immediate impact on premiums. Republicans have to educate the American people on that connection. It would be worth an investment in political capital to make that case to the American people. We know that the Democrats will blame the insurance companies, because that is what Democrats always do.

ObamaCare is having an immediate impact on the scarcity of doctors. The truth is that by taking away all economic incentives to continue to work, many doctors are leaving the profession entirely. A scarcity of doctors means longer wait times, lower-quality care and a diminishment of services.

ObamaCare is having an immediate impact on jobs and the economy. Small businesses are not hiring because of this law. Increased taxes on all kind of medical devices are making it harder for those American manufacturers to hire new workers. And when the ObamaCare taxes hit younger workers who don’t want to pay for health insurance, that too will impact the economy.

Persistence is the key to winning these arguments — but how you frame those arguments is even more important. So I am going to suggest something that might be counterintuitive: Stop calling it ObamaCare.

It will be hard for Democrats to vote to repeal ObamaCare. It will be far easier for them to vote to repeal the Washington law that unnecessarily increases heathcare premiums, prematurely retires thousands of doctors who need some economic incentives to keep practicing medicine and stupidly raises taxes on American manufacturing companies and young workers who barely afford to pay back their college loans as it is.

It will be far easier for Democrats if they cast their vote to avoid the train wreck rather than casting the vote to repudiate their president.