The promise of ObamaCare — more stuff for more people at a lower cost — has always defied common sense. I like to think that, at some level, the American people understood that from the start. But people are capable of embracing all manner of nonsense when they want something badly enough. So while ObamaCare was, and remains, unpopular, nearly half the nation still pretends we’re better off now than we were before, despite skyrocketing premiums and collapsing health care markets.
Once it became clear that Democrats would push ObamaCare through without a single Republican vote, the promises of repeal from Republicans began. I always thought that was wishful thinking. Once you give people something, they rarely will allow you to take it back, even if it’s something they didn’t want in the first place. They will find something about it they like and are unwilling to part with, even if that something comes at unsustainable costs. In the case of health care, people are unwilling to part with coverage of pre-existing conditions. They just don’t want to pay for it. They want to be rid of the mandates and the skyrocketing premiums, but they aren’t willing to give up the benefits those things pay for.
So Republicans are in a bind. And they know it. The talk has already shifted from repealing ObamaCare to replacing it. They will claim we can keep “the good parts” of ObamaCare (i.e. the “free” stuff) and eliminate “the bad parts” (i.e. the costs). But this is the same snake oil the Democrats sold us in the first place, the idea that they have come up with a way to defy the laws of economics and deliver the proverbial free lunch.
The question is what happens when they can’t do that?
My guess is that the Democrats will make hay by comparing the failed Republican solution to the fantasy of how much better things would have been if we’d only stayed with ObamaCare. And that the solution is to move to fully government-run (so called “single payer”) health care, which will give more people more stuff at a lower cost.
And people will believe that too. Because they will really, really want to.