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House Vote Reveals ObamaCare's Weak Spot: The Individual Mandate

A crack has opened in the ObamaCare dike. 

In a stunning setback for the controversial health care law's supporters, 22 House Democrats yesterday joined 227 Republicans to delay its linchpin provision, the individual mandate.

In so doing, they revealed the law's Achilles heel.

Senate Republicans should capitalize on this breakthrough by forcing a vote on the mandate delay as soon as possible.

The vote to delay the individual mandate, which is the law's least popular provision, passed 251 to 174. As noted, 22 Democrats crossed the aisle. Earlier, the House had voted 264 to 161 to delay the law's employer mandate; 35 Democrats crossed the aisle on that one. The two delays were folded into a single bill.

This morning, the Left and the press are universally pooh-poohing the bill's chances in the Senate. It's dead, they say. A symbolic vote. A waste of time.

The truth is ObamaCare has suffered its first real setback in four years.

Republicans have found a health care argument that works. They should pound it.

If they can delay the mandate, they can kill whatever lingering aura of "inevitability" the troubled law retains. If they delay the mandate, they effectively halt the takeover.

The Vote in Context

Yesterday's breakthrough comes on the heels of a string of bad breaks for the embattled Washington takeover. The President's cheery "The law is working!" narrative has been embarrassingly off-key over the past few weeks. All signs suggest HHS is struggling to get the exchanges off the ground by October 1st as required. And recent reports suggest that insurance premiums are going to be higher in the exchanges, and the competition will be less robust, than supporters have claimed. 
The biggest bombshell came the first week of July, when the Administration admitted it is summarily (and almost certainly illegally) dispensing with enforcing key parts of the law, including the employer mandate and income-verification checks in the exchanges (allowing folks to sign up for means-tested taxpayer subsidies on the "honor system," no questions asked).

The purpose of these selective waivers? To keep the exchanges from flopping in the first year. Experts think the system needs at least 7 million people, including 2.7 million young, healthy people, to enter the exchanges by next March -- or else the exchanges could sink into failure. 

The Administration is determined to pack the exchanges with millions of warm bodies, by hook or by crook. That will be a challenge, especially when it comes to corralling young adults in their twenties and thirties. Their participation is vital to the scheme's success, yet the same scheme intentionally hits them with the highest premium increases.

But it was the unfairness of the Administration's move -- excusing employers from the mandate, but not individuals -- that gave the House Republicans their opening. Since the employer mandate is being put off for a year, Republicans moved to delay the individual mandate for a year as well. The bill proved tough to oppose, as these 22 House Democrats showed by defying their party leaders and voting "yes" on it:

Barber, D-AZ

Barrow, D-GA

Brownley, D-CA

Bustos, D-IL

Enyart, D-IL

Esty, D-CT

Gallego, D-TX

Garcia, D-FL

Kirkpatrick, D-AZ

Maffei, D-NY

Maloney, Sean, D-NY

Matheson, D-UT

McIntyre, D-NC

Murphy, D -FL

Owens, D-NY

Peters, D-CA

Peters, D-MI

Peterson, D-MN

Rahall, D-WV

Ruiz, D-CA

Schneider, D-IL

Sinema, D-AZ

On previous ObamaCare-related votes, no more than 3 Democrats had crossed the aisle. Twenty-two is an exponential increase.

Lessons for Freedom Fighters

The main lesson of yesterday's breakthrough?

Freedom fighters can win the health care argument, if we stand on principle and aggressively defend things inherently worth defending, such as freedom, fairness, and the true well-being of patients and familes.

It's not enough to oppose the abstraction, "ObamaCare." A majority of Americans don't like the law. But it's hard to see the public going along with postponing or cancelling all or parts of it, absent compelling arguments.

The individual mandate is a compelling argument. 

  1. It's unfair, falling hardest on young adults. 
  2. It's unnecessary, since there are other, non-coercive ways to help patients and the uninsured. 
  3. It's harmful, serving as the glue that binds together the whole rickety ObamaCare edifice.
  4. It's unpopular. Seventy percent of Americans oppose it. A mere 12 percent want it to take effect next year.

Also Needed: Better Solutions

But even with all those strong arguments, I don't believe we will be able to persuade the Senate and the President to go along with a delay of any part of the law, unless we also offer better solutions for addressing the real problems in health care. 

We didn't have a truly free-market health care system before ObamaCare, and we won't have one after we repeal it -- unless we enact positive reforms to lower costs and expand individual freedom.

Voters need to know what Republicans would replace ObamaCare with.

Polls show overwhelming majorities of voters support market-oriented reforms that lower costs, such as letting consumers purchase insurance across state lines, letting families save more tax-free for out-of-pocket health expenses, and allowing individuals to purchase health insurance with pretax dollars. Those reforms will help lower costs and move us closer to true, patient-centered care.

Republicans also need to address ObamaCare's strong point: preexisting conditions. One percent of Americans with preexisting medical conditions find themselves unable to obtain affordable health coverage. That may sound like a small problem, unless you're one of the one percent. State-based reforms are best here: for example, subsidies to individuals through so-called preex (or "high risk") pools. 

What Now?

What should we do with our newfound success?

1. DELAY: Continue pounding on the law's weak point: the mandate. Seize every opportunity to force a Senate vote on the delay. When the delay passes, fight to make it permanent.

2. DEFUND: Refuse to appropriate another penny for the implementation of this corrupt, unfair, and unaffordable law. Don't fund it.

3. DEFEAT: Let's burn our ObamaCare cards. FreedomWorks is encouraging all Americans, especially millennials, to engage in lawful "health care draft resistance." Our mantra: "Ignore the mandate. Skip the exchange. Pay the fine. Burn the card." If enough of us do this, we can hasten the collapse of the exchanges, and the replacement of government health care with patient-centered care.

4. REPLACE: Republicans should show the world their compassion -- and the real meaning of patient-centered care -- by passing needed, market-oriented reforms in place of government-run health care.

We've found the weak spot. Let's press on it. Hard.



 Official tallies of yesterday's House votes: