Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Obama Surrenders On ObamaCare?

Yesterday, I pointed out how Obama has strangely jumped to the free market right, specifically with his Executive Order requiring federal agencies to start looking through their books for regulations that can be eliminated to spur economic growth. Now we have something even more bizarre. While Obama was busy cautioning the GOP against repealing ObamaCare, he released the following statement. See what you make of this:

“I’m willing and eager to work with both Democrats and Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. But we can’t go backwards. Americans deserve the freedom and security of knowing that insurance companies can’t deny, cap, or drop their coverage when they need it most, while taking meaningful steps to curb runaway health care costs.”
Is this freaking you out? It should.

While the media is portraying this statement as nothing more than Obama standing steadfast against repealing ObamaCare while simultaneously giving some vague assurance he might, somehow be willing to consider improvements, this statement goes WAY beyond that.

Politics and law are very similar, and both thrive on negotiation. And what Obama and the Republicans are about to do is to start negotiating the fate of ObamaCare. As an experienced negotiator, I can tell you that the statement above contains Obama’s opening offer, i.e. his list of demands for the coming negotiations. And the list is stunning. Take another look. As I read this statement, Obama says he's willing to work with the Republicans to rework (i.e. improve) ObamaCare, but the finished product must:
1. Not be officially "repealed."

2. Must prevent insurers from turning people down for pre-existing conditions.

3. Must prevent insurers from putting lifetime caps on policies.

4. Must prevent insurers from dropping coverage when people file claims or get sick.

5. Must find ways to cut costs.
Note what’s missing: the public option, government-issued policies, mandatory purchase of insurance, punishing employers, subsidies, taxes on providers. . . everything that makes ObamaCare what it is. All that’s left here is keeping the credit for the final product, some insurance reform, and cost cutting -- which has always been the Republican goal of health care reform.

Essentially, Obama is saying that he only cares about the popular parts of ObamaCare (the parts that even many Republicans said need to be kept), that he wants credit for the final product, and that he’s going to rely on the Republicans to find cost cutting measures.

That’s called “total surrender.”

So what’s going on here? It’s possible Obama has some devious plan to sound bipartisan, but then resist everything. But that gets him nothing. He knows he needs to negotiate with the Republicans, or they will just defund his entire program and repeal it in 2012. This could be some sort of trick, but again I don’t see how that helps him as the Republicans have the power. This could just be a mistake? But Obama knows he’s entering a negotiation with the Republicans and even a newbie lawyer knows that your opening statement pretty much becomes the maximum you’ll ever get. So even if he didn’t intend this to be his opening demand, it’s too late to jam that genie back into the bottle.

What I suspect is really going on here, is that Obama has read the tea leaves and he knows ObamaCare is a political disaster. He knows it’s doomed, and the only way he can maintain some sort of legacy out of it is to cut a deal with the Republicans. So he has (again) decided to throw the Democrats under the bus and hook his fame to ObamaCare II, a much smaller, but much more popular law.

Can you imagine how happy the unemployed Blue Dogs must be feeling today? And what the Huffers are going to say when they figure this out?



Tennessee Jed said...

Certainly the media has been in full blown protect Obamacare mode with the phony polls etc. As far as Barrack goes, I again point out that most of the public mixes up "cost of healthcare" with "insurance premium" pricing. You cannot screw the insuance companies and force them to cover uninsurable conditions and still dictate the pricing. If you do that, you drive them out of business which is what Obama and the Democrats wanted all along. The other key for the Republicans is to make sure the true cost of this gets shown. Public debate, not backroom deals.

Tennessee Jed said...

p.s. while I agree Andrew that it is the norm that your opening offer sets your max in a negotiation, politics sometimes is difference where public opinion can be swayed. Fortunately, the public has been resolute in keeping this from happening. The election spoke volumes despite efforts of the media to exploit tragedy and b.s. polls to make us think otherwise.

Joel Farnham said...


Yes, it does sound like Obama is surrendering all that ObamaCare is. Even to looking like he will cooperate with the Republicans.

I just have a tiny little problem with this. Obama lies. Repeatedly. Even when he doesn't have to lie.

I am looking at actions first, rhetoric second with this clown. He would be more believable if he, by executive order, suspended implementation of ObamaCare until the new bill gets to his desk for him to sign. His talk is nothing more than cow methane to me and a delaying tactic.

JB1000 said...

He saw how well campaigning against the Democrats in Washington worked for the Republicans in 2010 and decided to use the same strategy in 2012.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, if it all works out that way, it'll still be a good deal less than what I'd like to see--how are all these requirements on insurance companies justified?--but given as only a minority of the public favors a total repeal of ObamaCare, this may be the best deal we can get at the moment. And if the Republicans can use it to their advantage and completely destroy Obama's standing with the Left, so much the better.

BevfromNYC said...

Those are exactly the 4 things that the Repubs stated in that farce of "bipartisan" showdown he had that were GOOD about the bill. However, he said nothing about tort reform. If he did, I would request someone check the expiration date on in Dem Party membership card.

But then tort reform could fall into the category of "ways to cut costs". I will let you know what happens on HuffPo. Most of them are ardent "single-payer" advocates, so anything less than moving more left will not be good enough.

AndrewPrice said...

Sorry I'm late.... but I'm finally here! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I'm not sure this endangers the insurance carriers as much as you think. I think this will simply ratchet up the cost of insurance for everyone else.

I suspect the Republicans are hoping to bring those costs back down by opening up competition. I don't think that will ultimately be enough though. If they don't find a way to truly cut the cost of medical care, then this could all blow up in the end. OR, more likely, they will cheat. Since a huge chunk of health care costs go to a small group of people (typically near the end of their lives), I suspect that ultimately, we will see some sort of public risk pool for the highest risk people as a way to relieve the pressure on insurance companies -- probably done as a hidden subsidy. Thus, the taxpayers will be whacked for those costs instead of the purchasers of insurance.

I'm not advocating that, but I think that is what we will see.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, It's possible public opinion could change the power in this instance, but (1) Obama would need to stand up and demand that first, and (2) then he would probably need to be willing to force a government shutdown or wait until a new election.

It's very, very hard to jack up your demands once the other side knows your maximum demands.

If the Republicans are smart, they should jump on this and cut some sort of deal along these lines (which are very similar to what they've been seeking) before the public opinion can change. You can bet the left will start attacking this today as well as several interest groups.

CrispyRice said...

LOL @ "his list of demands" Andrew! What an interesting way to put it.

The funny thing is, 4 of the 5 things are perfectly reasonable. But HELLNO! We're going to repeal his garbage if we can.

#3 and #4 are perfectly reasonable and I think it's BS that an insurance company is allowed to drop you after you've paying them forever, just because you finally need them.

Re #2 - I've never been turned down for a pre-existing condition, as long as I had previous coverage. And even then, there's just a waiting period before the new insr kicks in. That seems more than reasonable to me, too. You can't let people wait 'til they get sick and THEN go get coverage. Ugh.

I think Jed is right - O's ultimate goal is to drive insr companies out of business. And I don't trust him coming to the table for negotiations.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Ordinarily, I would agree with you. But....

1. I'm not sure it matters if he's lying. He's put himself in a horrible position for the negotiations because the Republicans simply should not agree to give him more than he asked for here. And they can beat him over the head with his demands if they agree to meet them (even just in principle) and then he tries to back out.

2. He may be serious. I'm starting to think something's changed in his thinking. During his first two years, it seemed that his biggest concern was to get things done. He seemed to think that no matter what he did, the public would see his brilliance and accept it. But he doesn't seem to be that same guy anymore. It seems like his new thinking is much narrower and much more sensitive to the objections of the public.

So I really do think he's basically circled his wagons around the small parts of ObamaCare that the public likes and has decided, "this will be my legacy."

Could he change his mind? Sure. But his throwing the Democrats under the bus in a huge way is going to alienate them and make it very hard for them to rally around him and convince him to fight for something more.

AndrewPrice said...

JB1000, That is a distinct possibility. Keep in mind one critical fact -- he was handsoff on ObamaCare. He tossed it to Reid and Pelosi and said, "give me something I can sign."

When the public blew up into a rage over it, he was probably caught off guard. And when the public crushed the Democrats, he may have decided that his best future is to repudiate the Democrats who "went too far" (as he's done to them on several issues now), and that thus, he's siding with the public now.

That's highly possible, and it fits with the narcissism he seems to show, because it lets him justify the failure of ObamaCare to himself by saying that it wasn't his failure, it was Pelosi's.

Notawonk said...

i agree, it's stunning. but, i'll reserve my WHOOP! for the finale. the left lies. the left manipulates. the left is not to be trusted until it's in black and white and the signature is dry.

although, me likey. thanks for the analysis.

oh and as an aside, someone, a lefty to be sure, tried to block from facebook (unsuccessfully, i might add)!

this is the message i received when i tried to link it: This message contains blocked content that has previously been flagged as abusive or spammy.

ABUSIVE! or spammy. whatever.

lol! let's say what the troll really wanted to say: notawonk offends me because it disagrees with me. waaaa.

when will they learn that they can't force us to shut-it?!

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, In truth, I don't care one way or another about these particular requirements. On the one hand, insurers have brought this on themselves by flirting with ObamaCare in the hopes of imposing the requirement that we buy insurance -- live by the government, die by the government.

On the other, I think some of this is inevitable. It's just too hard to tell the public that "we should allow people who are really sick to be kicked off their insurance policies or to be uninsurable." That's a losing political position as it strikes Americans as simply unfair.

So better to get something like this through now when (1) we can make sure it's done the best way possible rather than the heavy-handed way Pelosi would do it, and (2) while we can claim credit for it and while we can claim credit for killing ObamaCare itself.

All in all, I don't like any of this, nor do I think it will work. I think the problem with our side is narrow thinking that is dominated by the mistaken believe that we need to preserve the current insurance system as it is. I personally would love to see a major reform of the whole system, top to bottom.

I don't know if you were with us when I outlined what I'd like to see, but here are the articles: CommentaramaCare. I explain first what is wrong with the system and how it can and can't be fixed, then I give my proposals.

Unfortunately, as you'll see if you read the articles, both the Republicans and the Democrats are barking up the wrong tree by trying to expand insurance coverage and will only make things worse.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, "I would request someone check the expiration date on in Dem Party membership card." -- LOL! You have a real way with words! :-)

That was my first thought, by the way, that this is exactly what the Republicans have been saying they would accept. That's why this seems like such a total surrender. He's basically saying, "I'm going to fight hard to make sure that our deal ends up being exactly what you propose." It's very strange! It's like he's decided that he's note even willing to risk the appearance of a fight?

Any thoughts on why Obama would cave in so easily?

P.S. Please do tell us about the Huffers, I'm sure they will go crazy once they figure this out. There should be some great comments once they get going.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, I think these things will sound very reasonable to most people, and they may well be right. We can argue that you get exactly what you bargain for in a contract, but there is still a sense of moral obligation that creeps into these things, and it does seem morally wrong to let insurers sell themselves with the idea that they will cover you should something go wrong and then they drop you once something goes wrong.

And in case you're wondering, several states now forbid that practice of dropping coverage for a condition once a claim has been made, so I suspect these changes are inevitable any way.

In terms of bankrupting insurers, that will be a lot harder than it looks, because they can pass on their costs. So what I think is really about to happen is that we're going to get a "hidden tax" foisted on us by both parties, as they shift the cost of covering the uninsurable on to policyholders.

In terms of repealing, that will be a question of theater, but I hope there is a huge ceremony where they wipe out the old ObamaCare and replace it with something that sounds more like ElephantCare! Pelosi can stand in the background weeping.... :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, I agree, we can't celebrate until we actually win something, but this is one heck of an auspicious start!

Glad to hear you managed to avoid being blocked, but that's how the left fights... stifling the opposition, not persuading the opposition. By the way, check out my article this afternoon, it's right on that point!

BevfromNYC said...

This is still more on Obama's deregulation statement. No posting yet on Obama's HC statement. I can't wait for THAT!

This about says it all - The last line of the article -
"A constituency that Daley, Obama's new chief of staff, can faithfully represent, having received $5 million a year from JPMorgan Chase. And so ends the season of hope for the less wealthy constituency traditionally allied with Democrats."

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - I think the reason he's doing this is that he really wants to be reelected and anything that has been done up until now he can blame Pelosi and Reid. He's doing what Clinton did, but instead of taking credit for what the Repubs did, he's going to lay blame on Dems. I mean, he's replacing all of his top advisors with Clinton redo's.

Notawonk said...

andrew: i'm still waiting to hear from facebook as i challenged the blocking. i want to know why a conservative political site, that has never threatened anyone, can be flagged as "abusive," and why is it possible that they would not contact me first in order to refute whoever got their nose bent out of shape and decided to flag the site.

i mean we all know why a lefty would do it. easy to hide behind the word abusive as they see themselves as victims anyway.

and i'll be back...

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, That sounds like the end of a Star Wars film or something! LOL!

Here's your link: Huffer Regulation Insanity

By the way, Pitts just pointed out in yesterday's thread that they are calling Obama a "Cheney Democrat"! Now that is hilarious!!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, That seems to be his strategy. And I'll tell you, it strikes me as a horrible strategy. The smartest thing Clinton did was make friends with everyone. Obama seems to think that alienating the Democrats is somehow the same thing. Good luck with that!

They are going to be protesting him in the streets soon!

AndrewPrice said...

Patti, Let us know how it goes. I'm not at all surprised that leftists would try to flag you. They probably go around flagging all the evil right wing sites they can find.

p.s. Tune in at 4:00, your story fits perfectly with what I'm talking about!

Tennessee Jed said...

I'd like to see the fine print on the 100,000 pages of regulations before I would admit carriers will be free to rachet up anything once the deathstar became fully operational. In terms of a separate assigned risk pool for the elderly or those with pre-existing conditions, that actually would be the best way to do it. That would at least shine the light more accurately on where costs are coming from. (Remember, insurance premiums are not costs per se, they reflect the costs of medical claims and claims expense.)

Insurance has to be about financial risk from uncertainty, and pooling that risk to remove the uncertainty for the individual. With a pre-existing condition, the uncertainty is also removed and really can no longer be the appropriate subject of insurance. Move the high risk to a pool, assign the losses to all insurors, but task the insurors and regulatory agencies with ways to lower the cost of medical services (see Commenterama Care.) Make insurance a "major medical" cover and require people to pay out of pocket for routine medical expense. Means test whatever government subsidizes.

I wouldn't quickly rush for a deal. I want this very public and thought out, something that didn't happen last time around.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, Sorry, I didn't mean to imply rush into a deal. I mean jump on his statement as an agreement in principle, so that this becomes the outer confines of the deal, and then negotiate the specifics. That would keep him from trying to add in things that aren't already within the confines of the agreement in principal, but would leave us free to argue about all of the details within the agreement in principle.

I agree about seeing the fine print too. In fact, just to clarify, I see this statement as a very hopeful sign that things will go well, but it's just a start. There is no victory yet.

Nice use of a Star Wars analogy! :-)

In terms of "old people pools," I think that's coming because it actually does make sense, because that's the best way to isolate those costs so the public understands the problem and so that you can find ways to reduce those costs without messing with the whole system.

One of the problems I have with this whole current system is the Stossel problem. As John Stossel points out, the rise of insurance has coincided with the increased cost of medical care. And I think that's because of two reasons: (1) insurance wipes out the market incentives because the buyer and seller don't set the price, it's set by a third party, who will always be inefficient in doing that. (2) the government has gotten involved with insurance, so that makes it even less efficient, as the government has demanded certain types of coverage -- it's a way of providing "government services" through private parties, which again jacks up the price and takes away the market disciplines.

All of this tells me that the current solutions, where the Democrats want to replace the insurers with one mega insurer or where the Republicans want to spread insurance further, will do nothing to rein in costs and will probably make the problem worse.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

This is odd. I could be wrong, but I expect Obama to take credit for this no matter what survives or is reformed from Obamacare.
Just as he is taking credit for utilizing GOP recommendations to find ways to help the ecomomy by getting rid of unnecessary regulations, although talk is cheap and it remains to be seen what he actually does in that regard.

I don't think he'll go overboard blaming democrats...only a select few like Pelosi and Reid.

His goal is to make private insurance unaffordable for most Americans.
Depending on how much the costs rise, including the costs to cover those who can't afford it (will that include all illegal aliens?), this could cause more Americans to drop their coverage if they can't afford it. How many remains to bve seen.

Obamacare has already resulted in several companies dropping employer insurance or raising the costs to the employees significantly.

My point is, perhaps Obama is looking to go long, hoping to tip public opinion in favor of single payer by getting the majority of voters onto Obamacare (or whatever revisions may get improved).

The republicans must be very careful, because anything that goes wrong will be blamed on them.

Then we got all the court challenges that will be a major factor when they reach SCOTUS.

But I do concur, it does appear as if Obama has folded rather quickly.
Maybe he is lying again. It doesn't seem like many of his past lies has hurt him all that much.
He may also be counting on using his czars to do more end-arounds to get what he wants.

Does the GOP have the spine to defund the FCC, EPA, and any other non-elected organizations that are already ignoring the Constitution?

The republicans should be mentioning Obama's lies every chance they have to hold his feet to the fire in preparation for '12. And they should quickly put a full stop on the abuses of power already evident from Obama's administration and czars.

Thgen I would feel better about the GOP tackling Obamacare.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, You've said a lot, and I think you make some great points as always!

It could well be that Obama is looking to cast blame on the Republicans if the health care system doesn't miraculously turn perfect. It could also be that he's hoping to simply make private insurance take the fall. In either event though, he's thrown the ball to the Republicans and I would be thrilled if I was one of them, that here is my chance to finally make a serious difference to a system that is doing so much harm to our economy and our budget. I'm hoping they're up to the task, and I have been getting a lot more faith in them lately, though I am concerned that they are fixated on the idea of spreading insurance to everyone. That's not a solution. I guess we'll see.

Do they have the nerve to defund entire agencies? No. Nor do I think that's good politics. The better plan is to neuter them so that they stop seeming relevant. Then eliminate them in a "grand reorganization" when we get a new President, who could make the case about consolidating agencies and departments to eliminate waste and duplication. That's the stealth way to do it and doesn't upset the public because it doesn't sound radical, even though it is. It just sounds like a clerical thing.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...


That's a good idea irt neutering those agencies! That way we keep the squishy moderates on our side.
Also, we must stress precisely what these agencies are doing; without accountability or representation they are trampling our liberties.
They are ignoring the will of Congress and Americans with their power grab, and we oughtta wrap that albatross around Obama's neck and make him wear it since he is the one that gave them that power.

Boehner and McConnel isn't my choice as leaders (old guard) but if they change their old ways (democrat lite) and move to the right and listen to the Tea Party principles, particularly about cutting spending and bloated government, then I can forgive them for their past transgressions, lol.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, I'm in the same boat. They aren't guys I would have chosen to lead the party as they are too tied to the old ways of adding to government and handing out favors to the well-connected. But so far, I've been pretty pleased with them in that they seem to have "gotten it." If they keep this up, then I will be happy.

I agree entirely that we need to hang the czars around Obama's neck and make the point that these guys are out there trampling out freedoms. I'd also like to see the Congress order the courts to restore the line of reasoning that required the courts to very carefully consider whether the executive agencies are exceeding what is allowed them under legislation. That would do a LOT to rein in out government.

In terms of getting rid of the agencies, that is the best way because no one really notices. It seems like a clerical thing is all, but you're really making major substantive changes. It can be very effective, and still very stealthy, which will keep the moderates from getting upset.

T_Rav said...

Andrew, thanks for posting that. Health care is not something I pretend to understand, other than that it costs a lot and I shouldn't be required to have insurance. But those sound like some very sensible proposals, as did Paul Ryan's plan a few months back. One point, though; I don't think you could possibly get illegal aliens' home countries to pay for the care they get here--mainly because of what the main country in that category is.

AndrewPrice said...

T_Rav, You're welcome. It's a lot of information to absorb, but it's the kind of thing that needs to be understood before we can get to effective reform. Unfortunately, too many people who are talking about this issue (i.e. bloggers, newspapers, lobbyists, politicians) have never bothered to grasp even the fundamentals. So their solutions usually will cause more problems than they would fix.

In terms of illegal aliens, yeah, it would be hard to get the home countries to foot the bill, but it's still worth a shot. At the least, it might be more ammo for people looking to fix the immigration system. Right now, we just dump the cost of the failure of our federal government to do its job on hospitals in places like Arizona. That's wrong.

Paul Ryan is a smart guy and I hope he gets a chance to drive the reform train because if anyone in DC can get the system going in a better direction, it's him.

DUQ said...

Good read! This could be a bug moment for us if Obama really is ready to give in. Let's hope it's true (not that I trust him)!

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Trust is earned, as is distrust, and Obama and his Democratic friends have earned heeps of distrust.

StanH said...

We’ll see, I don’t trust this guy as far as I can spit. Newt was on Hannity last evening and stated that after Barry did his EO getting rid of unnecessary regulations …wink-wink-nod-nod… on business he was asked, “does this mean you’re going to rein in the EPA?” Barry’s reply, “No!” This guys is a flim-flam man, and believes he’s the smartest guy in the room. Don’t pay attention to the bouncing ball, watch what he does. What was it that Clinton said, “the era of big government is over,” how’d that work out? His statements IMO are political expediency, Barry’s going to be Barry, my concern is our guys. I hope you’re right, we’ll see.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, "My concern is our guys," I agree with that. Our guys are the ones who matter and ultimately, I don't think Obama can stand in their way.

Ed said...

I hope the Republicans are smart enough to call Obama on this and say that everything else is off the table.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I hope so. I didn't hear much about this today because everyone was focused on the Chinese and the repeal vote, but I think we'll hear about this in the next day or two and then we'll know.

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