POLITICS

Obama’s piecemeal defense of Obamacare

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Photo - President Barack Obama speaks during an "Obama Victory Fund" concert at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, in Miami Beach. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Barack Obama speaks during an "Obama Victory Fund" concert at the Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater, Tuesday, June 26, 2012, in Miami Beach. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

During the run-up to passage of the national health care law, there was a furious debate among Democrats over whether President Obama should pursue a far-reaching, universal-coverage plan, or whether he should accept a series of piecemeal reforms that would extend coverage to some, but not all, Americans who don’t have health insurance.

Obama chose to go big, and he won.  But now, as Obamacare hangs in the balance before the Supreme Court, the president is defending his signature achievement as if it were the set of smaller, piecemeal reforms that he once rejected.

In his recent campaign appearances, Obama has defended Obamacare for its ban on insurance companies denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing conditions; for its provision to allow adult children to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26; and for its expansion of prescription drug coverage.  Each of those measures, Obama says, was “the right thing to do.”  Only once in his most recent appearances has Obama even mentioned the main feature of Obamacare, that is, its scheme to extend health care coverage to more than 30 million currently-uncovered Americans.

“You can decide whether…preventing insurance companies from discriminating against people who are sick is the right thing to do,” Obama said at a campaign appearance at Symphony Hall in Boston Monday.  “Or allowing over three million young people to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan, whether that’s the right thing to do; or bringing down prescription drug costs for seniors was the right thing to do.  I think it was the right thing to do.  I know it was the right thing to do.”

The latest turns in Obama stump speech suggest how he will defend Obamacare should the Court strike down the law’s individual mandate.  Obama and Democrats front-loaded Obamacare with popular features, like the ban on pre-existing conditions, that have already gone into effect, while putting off universal coverage, with its mandates and subsidies and Medicare cuts and taxes, until 2014.  Should the mandate be struck down, Obama will focus on preserving those other features.  And if the entire law is struck down, Obama will likely press Congress to re-instate those features. On the stump, Obama is defending Obamacare as if it were a small package of reforms, rather than the law that actually passed.

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