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Suing Obamacare Is Washington's Summer Rerun

A Commentary by Froma Harrop

Thursday, July 17, 2014

On television, summer reruns are becoming a thing of the past. Noting a jump in demand for fresh entertainment in the hot months, TV execs are responding with original programming.

In Washington, however, suing Obamacare gets played over and over and over again, whatever the heat index. These summer reruns don't get much audience, but that hasn't deterred the House Republicans. This is their latest attempt -- they've tried more than 40 times -- to wreck the Affordable Care Act. This suit revolves around the president's decision to delay the employer mandate.

That show wasn't so hot the first time around.

The employer mandate requires medium and large employers to provide health coverage to their workers or pay a penalty. It was to go in effect Jan. 1, but the administration extended the deadline to give companies more time to get with the program.

The complaint, as stated by House Speaker John Boehner, is that President Obama changed the health care law without a vote by Congress. Obama was illegally "waiving the employer mandate and the penalties for failing to comply with it."

You've got to give him credit for twisting the plot. It happens that House Republicans last year themselves voted to delay the employer mandate and, by extension, penalties for failing to comply with it.

Call it "Blue Is the New Red" -- or should that be the other way around?

And by the way, the mandate is constitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court said so.

You'd think our elected officials would have the decency to not waste legal resources -- taxpayer dollars, actually -- suing over an action they've supported. Obviously, this is a case not of picking and choosing objections to Obamacare but of hurling lawyers at it with a water cannon. Whatever happened to summer vacations?  

As the story of Obamacare develops, the townspeople originally hostile to the health reforms are warming up to the newcomer. Hardly a week goes by without another fear about his getting shot down by reality. 

For example, average premium costs are not spiking; they're rising more slowly than before the law. Healthy young people are not refusing to obtain coverage; they're signing up. Meanwhile, the great majority of the newly insured say they are happy with their coverage. 

Now it appears that federal spending on health programs is growing more slowly than earlier predicted, and cost savings written into Obamacare are part of the reason. We're talking $1.23 trillion in lower expected spending for the 10 years starting in 2010, the amount supplied by the nonpartisan   Congressional Budget Office.

So polls show a national audience increasingly content -- and given the mud thrown at it, pleasantly surprised -- with Obamacare. Republicans won't seriously dismantle the reforms, but that doesn't mean they can't make a show of hammering at the law.

Call it "Bad Breaking."

To be fair and balanced, let it be noted that respectable legal scholars stand on both sides of the debate over the delayed mandate. Some say Obama exceeded his authority. Others say he just did it to implement a program that Congress approved, which is part of his job description. As a similar example, George W. Bush waived a penalty for poor elderly people who missed the deadline for re-enrolling in the new Medicare drug benefit. No one complained then.

The broadcasters and cable channels are hollering for new material because their audiences want it, and audiences feed their bottom line. Members of Congress don't have to care about audience interest, because they get paid anyway, by the public.

Hence the reruns of the Obamacare demolition derby in which Obamacare never really gets hurt, and people don't really watch. Not very entertaining.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com

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