This will be brief -- but it has to be a diary because I want to read the comments section.
Republicans are playing a game with the Affordable Care Act health reform, trying to capitalize on public antagonism towards the individual mandate. They want to cut the funds for enforcing the mandate, which health insurers assert with good reason is a necessary companion to the requirement that they provide coverage without respect to pre-existing conditions.
Without a mandate, insurers might go broke from people who sign up for insurance only when they discover that they are sick.
I have a suggestion: Let the Republicans win this one -- if they dare, which they won't.
Republicans, who will control the House starting in January but will remain in the minority in the Senate, acknowledge that they do not have the votes for their ultimate goal of repealing the health law, the most polarizing of Mr. Obama’s signature initiatives.
But they said they hoped to use the power of the purse to challenge main elements of the law, forcing Democrats — especially those in the Senate who will be up for re-election in 2012 — into a series of votes to defend it.
Republican lawmakers said, for example, that they would propose limiting the money and personnel available to the Internal Revenue Service, so the agency could not aggressively enforce provisions that require people to obtain health insurance and employers to help pay for it. Under the law, individuals and employers who flout the requirements will face tax penalties.
Here's a novel idea: Let them win this one.
We should refuse to give ground on the bar against pre-existing conditions, but if Republicans want to bankrupt the insurance industry by eliminating the mandate, let them go ahead and try and let the insurers be the ones to explain why they are wrong. The insurers have to money to pay for spiffy ads, after all.
So, let's call the Republicans' bluff. If the Republicans want to see required pre-existing conditions coverage without a mandate, let them pass it. If they want to destroy their patrons in the insurance industry who helped elect them, every last Democrat should abstain on the vote. Hell, announce ahead of time that that's what we'll do. Do it during the lame-duck session, even! Let this bold policy of no pre-existing condition clauses without a mandate be the insurance companies' reward.
But, of course, the Republicans won't actually dare to destroy their patrons. So they will have to vote down their own bill. Let them be exposed to the public as faux-populist frauds -- or else they can shut up about the mandate. We win either way. Either the law won't pass, or it will be repealed within days.