JACK SPENCER: 'Obamacare' opponents need to show a pathway out

Those who oppose Obamacare talk about delaying, altering or repealing the law. Yet, without the power that only an election can mandate, these are mere disorganized mumblings. At some point in the future that mandate could materialize. But until that day arrives, what opponents of the law really need is to be able to offer a “pathway out” of Obamacare.

Predicting that Obamacare will be “a train wreck” has short term political value. There is a possibility that the law will derail itself. However, relying on that possibility alone could prove insufficient. Even if Obamacare were to crash and burn, its opponents are at risk of ultimately failing unless they are prepared to deal with its residue and remnants.

Free market policymakers should start picturing what the status of Obamacare is likely to be a year from now, or even several years from now. Sooner or later, many Americans might find themselves thoroughly disgusted with the law while at the same time being fearful of losing access to health care if the law were to suddenly vanish. The danger is that, without a clear “pathway out,” that fear might outweigh the disgust.

If Obamacare is as bad as its detractors claim, what large numbers of Americans will be seeking in the future will not only be an alternative, but a bridge leading from Obamacare to that alternative. In other words, by that time, an outright repeal of Obamacare would only be possible if the public was assured of a safe “pathway out” of it. To be politically viable this “pathway out” will have to be in a comprehensive form around which its adherents could rally.

A list of possible reforms within Obamacare might gain popular support in the months and years ahead. But to maximize the impact of this sort of “popular demand,” such a list should only be a starting point. From a political perspective, these reforms – and hopefully other changes – would work best as part of an overall escape plan. A single and identifiable plan, focused on more choices and flexibility, would be easier for the public to embrace than a loose collection of ideas.

With all the rhetoric about Obamacare churned out over the past five years it can be difficult to have a clear picture of what it actually is. It is not government getting into the business of health care. Government has been up to its belly in the U.S. health care system for decades.

Obamacare is health care becoming totally immersed in government. It is aimed at converting the health care system into a complex and multi-layered government program.

Most of the worries about Obamacare aren’t about it creating new problems. Realistically, what’s to be feared most about it is the possibility (some would say probability) that the problems of the pre-Obamacare system, including costs, will be 20 times worse under Obamacare.

Assuming Obamacare turns out to be the “train wreck” that so many believe; after getting a taste of the law millions will begin to appreciate the greater flexibility of a more market-based system. Arguments for a less centralized system will no longer be in the abstract. Reactions to the “Obamacare experience” could make the free market arguments come to life.

This columnist is not an expert on health care or health care insurance. However, there are policy experts who specialize in this area. Experts in the health care field who oppose Obamacare should start looking ahead and thinking in terms of a future escape route.

By “future” we mean – maybe next year, maybe the year after that, or maybe a decade or more from now. Movements for change can catch fire quickly, but sometimes they need to simmer for a while before bursting into full flame.

Yes, it’s easier to kill something like Obamacare at the start – before it gets off the ground. But having an identifiable plan for getting out of it, would be politically useful both immediately and – if necessary – in the long run.

The difficulties of creating such a plan should not be underestimated. Nevertheless, the task is worth the toil. The sooner a comprehensive “pathway out” of Obamacare is devised, the sooner it will find its way into the public consciousness. Who knows, some politicians might even clutch at it like a life raft the minute it was unveiled.

Jack Spencer is Capitol Affairs Specialist for Capitol Confidential, an online newsletter associated with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (MCPP). MCPP provides policy analysis. The political analysis represented in this column does not necessarily reflect the views of the Mackinac Center.