Since late last year, GOP leaders have been planning to pump tens of billions of dollars’ worth of new federal spending into the veins of insurance companies that are hemorrhaging red ink on the Obamacare exchanges.
The transfusion is expected to be a concoction of two bills. The first, championed by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.), would appropriate cost-sharing-reduction payments to insurers. The second, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R., Maine) and Bill Nelson (D., Fla.), would give insurers an additional $10 billion (and perhaps more) in federal cash.
Both bills are a distraction and fail to address the real reasons Obamacare is driving up premium costs and reducing Americans’ insurance options. Republicans would be better off focusing on these problems, rather than diverting their attention to side matters. …
… The weakness in this strategy is that it requires a docile GOP base. Having promised them Obamacare repeal for eight years, Republican incumbents will have to persuade conservatives that Obamacare really wasn’t that big a deal after all. They will tell voters that, if reelected, they will pursue more modest and gradual changes to Obamacare over the course of several years.
Base voters may acquiesce. Or they may revolt. Instead of mollifying Republican voters, the new strategy may provoke them into insisting that congressional leaders put Obamacare repeal on the 2018 agenda.