Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

March 20, 2014

Where do Dems turn now?

(Continued)

On a larger level, the numbers suggest more intensity on the repeal side. If there is an invigorated, passionate “hands off my Obamacare” faction, it’s not very big.

That could be one reason why Democrats seem so vexed over how to handle Obamacare in midterm campaigning. Many have adopted the “keep and fix” approach used unsuccessfully by Democrat Alex Sink in the recent special election to fill the House seat in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. The problem is, they’re strong on the “keep” part but confused on the “fix” part.

When asked how she would fix Obamacare, Sink offered small suggestions that would not have addressed the higher premiums, higher deductibles, and narrower choices the law has imposed on millions of Americans. Other Democrats who have also pledged to fix Obamacare have offered even fewer ways to actually do it.

And they’re not getting any help from the administration. When Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius appeared before the House Ways and Means Committee recently, she was asked by Republican Rep. Tom Reed for “any suggestions ... in areas that you want to fix the Affordable Care Act.”

“Has there been any legislation from the administration sent up to Congress in regards to those fixes?” Reed asked.

“I have not sent legislation to Congress, no sir,” Sebelius answered.

Sebelius noted that the administration has made unilateral changes in implementation. Republicans are well aware of that. But in terms of proposing legislation to fix or improve the president’s landmark achievement, Democrats have offered next to nothing.

What changes could they advocate? Most likely they can’t suggest anything really big, like repealing the individual mandate; most Democrats would see that as gutting the law, and any candidate who advocated it could risk party support. But perhaps Democrats could, as the blogger Mickey Kaus suggested, propose cutting back on mandated benefits like mental health treatment and pediatric dentistry, in the hope of bringing down premiums.

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