This spring, McConnell attacked Obamacare's logistics. Now that tens of thousands are signing up in Kentucky, he slams it as "free health care."
Brian Beutler, noting
a new Familes USA study showing that 71 percent of people under age 65 in the individual market are qualified for Medicaid or for insurance subsidies, observes:
For the past couple of months, the Healthcare.gov failure allowed Republicans to ignore the moral imperative they face to direct these constituents toward new options. The cash registers aren’t working, they could tell themselves, so what good would we be doing by directing people to the market anyhow. This was always dodgy logic, but it enjoyed a real sheen of plausibility. And that’s why Republicans have spent most of November soliciting Obamacare horror stories, rather than trying to help the narrators.
But as he points out, Jeffrey Zients, the Obama administration's healthcare.gov fixer, says that by the end of next week, the site will be able to handle nearly one million users a day, a development that will go a long way towards addressing the logistical problems that have challenged Obamacare's early days. If Zients delivers, this is a real problem for the Republican position, which comes down to variations of the claim that Obamacare isn't working.
There's no question that Obamacare delivers a quality product that people want—reliable health insurance—and for the vast majority of people, it does so more affordably than ever before. The problem really has been about logistics, and once more people can get health insurance through Obamacare, the GOP's technocratic critique falls apart. If they remain staunchly opposed to Obamacare—which they surely will—then their position becomes one of denying health care insurance to people in need. And it's not hard to see why that will quickly become a political liability.
Take a state like Kentucky, for example, where they don't call it Obamacare, but it's already working well. (For a great read on how well it's working, check out this weekend's Washington Post.)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell derides Kentucky's success as an example of government handouts run amok—"If you want to give out free health care you're going to have a lot of interest," McConnell says. The logical conclusion of that attack is that McConnell believes you should only get health care coverage if you've got deep pockets, a fundamentally immoral position that will appeal only to the the hardest core elements of the GOP base. Just look at the enduring popularity of Medicare if you doubt that fact.
If Republicans could spend the next 12 months arguing that Obamacare is an operational disaster, they'd be thrilled, because in making that argument, they would be able to avoid the reality that their position is to go back the era in which you were lucky to get health insurance—and luckier still if your health insurance actually gave you health security. But as Obamacare implementation improves, they won't be able to do that—and their arguments will increasingly echo McConnell's.
Twelve months of that from Republicans, and in their next port mortem, they'll look back at Mitt Romney spouting nonsense about the 47 percent as the good old days.