Republicans believed a Mitt Romney win would seal Obamacare‘s fate. Democrats — or rather, the lonely two-fifths of Americans who support the president’s beleaguered healthcare law — believed an Obama win would secure its future. Both sides were kidding themselves.
Romney may have pledged to repeal the law, but his positions on Obamacare had the life span of a rainbow. He supported an identical law when he got the credit for signing it as governor of Massachusetts. He then opposed Obamacare when that’s what GOP primary voters wanted to hear, and later endorsed parts of it when he thought that’s what moderate voters wanted to hear. Anyone who put stock in Romney’s pledge to fight for repeal simply wasn’t paying attention.
Democrats are likewise deluding themselves if they think the law is safe because Obama wields the veto pen. The greatest threat to Obamacare was never a Romney presidency but Obamacare itself.
The law remains vulnerable because of its unpopularity, the compromises that unpopularity forced on its authors and the Supreme Court’s ruling that part of it is unconstitutional. These factors guarantee repeal will remain a viable issue, and — I predict — that the president will ultimately sign a bill making major changes, at the very least.
In its ruling on the healthcare law, the Supreme Court gave states the freedom to decline Obamacare’s costly Medicaid expansion. Insurers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies were counting on the subsidies that came along with the expansion to offset the cuts and new costs the law imposes on them. The fact that many states have said they won’t implement the expansion will lead to those groups putting pressure on Congress to reopen the law.