Erickson vs. Anderson on the 'Keep Your Plan Act'

Writing at RedState, Erick Erickson says it's "a trap." Writing at NRO, Jeffrey Anderson writes, "no it isn't."

Welcome to the GOP's latest dilemma: Should Republicans help bail out Democrats on Obamacare by passing a bill that would allow insurance companies to continue offering plans that have been cancelled due to Obamacare rules?


Republicans are walking into a trap and they don't even realize it.

They are about to consider, in the House of Representatives, legislation by Congressman Upton that would allow people to keep their insurance plans.

There's a problem though. It is widely acknowledged that Congressman Upton's legislation is more messaging than substance. His legislation does not have anything in it that can force insurance companies, in the topsy-turvy world of Obamacare, to keep insurance plans going.

But there is a plan than does. Senator Mary Landrieu has written legislation in the United States Senate that the Democrats love. It mandates insurance companies have to keep people on their present insurance. The GOP is supposedly against mandates and against government forcing private businesses and individuals into contracts they don't want.

Here's what is going to happen.

The House, with the help of a good number of Democrats, will pass the Upton plan and send it to the Senate. Harry Reid will substitute the Landrieu plan and send it back to the House. The House will be forced to either vote for the Landrieu plan or be characterized as siding with insurance companies against people.

In one fell swoop, the Democrats will have the GOP on record saving Mary Landrieu's re-election in Louisiana by casting her as the one who saved Americans' health care plans, and also getting on record as really being in favor of fixing Obamacare with the use of mandates. 

Anderson points to what he considers some flaws in Erickson's argument:

Erickson is certainly right that Obamacare is not fixable, that Republican shouldn't be trying to fix it in any event, and that the only real solution to Obamare is to repeal it (which can't happen until President Obama has a complete ideological or psychological conversion, about 40 percent of Senate Democrats jump ship, or we hit January 20, 2017 -- whichever comes first). He's also right that the Upton bill won't bring back to life all of the plans that Obamacare has already killed off with its coercive mandates. But he's wrong that it's a trap. Or, rather, he's wrong that it's a trap for Republicans.

The Upton bill helps put Obama's oft-repeated "you can keep it" lie even more front-and-center. More important, it puts red-state and swing-state Senate Democrats in the position where they have to decide between defying Obama on his centerpiece legislation or else saying that they don't think their constituents who like their plans should be able to keep their plans. In short, it puts them in an impossible place and helps solidify their status as sitting ducks a year from now. 

Moreover -- and important -- the Upton bill would not help fix Obamacare. To the contrary, if it were to become law, it would badly undermine Obamacare's exchanges, which would then be drained of millions of (previously insured and hence generally healthier) people whom Obama wanted to compel to buy exchange-based plans by banning their preferred plans. In short, Upton would hurt Obamacare, not fix it -- which is why Obama opposes it.

As for Landrieu's bill, if Republicans can't successfully argue that Congress has no constitutional power to compel commerce (the basic point of the successful -- in that vein -- challenge to Obamacare under the Commerce Clause), if they can't argue that Congress has no power to compel anyone to sell an insurance plan, or, by extension, to compel a doctor to see a patient, etc., then we're in sad shape.

The points may be moot. Unless things change dramatically in the next week or so, Harry Reid will not bring any Obamacare fix to the floor. And it wouldn't matter anyway because the White House has indicated that the president will veto the measure.

The GOP should thank Bill Clinton. He has put congressional Democrats in an even worse position than they were before he said that Congress should act to make good on Obama's promise. (He's also distanced Hillary from the whole mess, thus probably saving her candidacy - for now.) While giving Democrats in congress some political cover to vote for the Keep Your Plan Act, defying a sitting president from your own party has its consequences. House Democratic leaders have indicated that gutting Obamacare - which the Keep Your Plan Act has a good chance of doing - would have fundraising reprecussions next fall.

If passing the bill doesn't cost anyone anything (except the insurance companies), and would actually work to undermine Obamacare, what's not to like about that? Erickson makes some legitimate points but overall, the bottom line is that Obamacare's fiercest supporters are greatly worried about any bill that would allow people to keep their insurance.

Ezra Klein says the Upton/Landrieu argument will have great appeal for many Senate Democrats, but may ring in the death knell of Obamacare:

4. The bill Landrieu is offering could really harm the law. It would mean millions of people who would've left the individual insurance market and gone to the exchanges will stay right where they are. Assuming those people skew younger, healthier, and richer -- and they do -- Obamacare's premiums will rise. Meanwhile, many people who could've gotten better insurance on the exchanges will stay in bad plans that will leave them bankrupt when they get sick.

"I think it would be a real substantive mistake to do the Landrieu bill," says MIT health economist Jon Gruber, a supporter of the Affordable Care Act.

5. Put simply, the Landrieu bill solves one of Obamacare's political problems at the cost of worsening its most serious policy problem: Adverse selection. Right now, the difficulty of signing up is deterring all but the most grimly determined enrollees. The most determined enrollees are, by and large, sicker and older. So the Web site's problems are leading to a sicker, older risk pool. Landrieu's bill will lead to a sicker, older risk pool. Obamacare has provisions meant to stop an out-of-control death spiral, but higher premiums are a real danger.

Is it any wonder that the White House is dead set against the bill?

Another worry for Obamacare supporters is that once the door is opened to changes in the ACA, the sky's the limit. Repeal of the medical device tax, altering Medicare rules that punish doctors, and other onerous parts of the bill could be dealt with piecemeal, chipping away at the guts of the law until repealing it becomes possible without setting the entire health care industry on its head.

Support for some kind of fix is building among Democrats. Let them follow the GOP lead for once while Republicans prove to the voter that they can act responsibly in a crisis by addressing a real need of the American people.

Upton's bill will be voted on tomorrow.

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