White House quiet about ObamaCare, shifting legal strategies

Last week, we found out that the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, would cost taxpayers $1.76 trillion over the next 10 years, nearly double the cost when it was scored by the Congressional Budget Office in 2010. We also found out that the health care law could cause as many as 20 million people to lose their coverage.

With arguments in the Supreme Court just under a week away, Philip Klein notes that the White House is backing away from the promise economic benefits of ObamaCare:

Asked why President Obama has been silent on the law as its second anniversary approaches, Carney explained that the president is now focusing on the economy rather than health care reform.

“The president does speak about health care on occasion and will continue to do that,” Carney told reporters, “but he is focused on a forward agenda right now — and working with Congress and doing the things he can through executive action — to grow the economy and create jobs.”

When Obama faced criticism for focusing on health care rather than economic policy in the first year of his presidency, the president responded by portraying Obamacare, to some degree, as a jobs bill. “Rising health care costs are a major driver of our long-term deficits, and getting them under control is crucial if we want to grow the economy, create jobs and compete in the world economy,” the White House website says.  Carney argued that the law is saving money for seniors and keeping young people insured, but he did not connect Obamacare to job creation or economic growth.

Obama’s economic advisers went to great lengths to argue for health care reform as an economic spur. ”Health care reform is incredibly important not just for the American people but for the American economy,” Christina Romer, Obama’s chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said during the health care debate. “Good health care reform is essentially good economic policy,” she added.

Despite promises by Republicans to repeal ObamaCare, a near impossibility given the current climate in Congress, the real fight over the law begins next week at the Supreme Court. The White House has already shifted its defense strategy by steering somewhat away from the Commerce Clause and to Necessary and Proper Clause, hoping that it will be more amenable to conservative justices, which is unlikely, but not impossible.

ObamaCare hasn’t lived up to the rhetoric, and it’s not going to. We can point out how the Massachusetts health care law, which was the basis for ObamaCare, has been a boondoggle for taxpayers and hasn’t kept down health care costs; but you already know that.

But the Supreme Court isn’t going to weigh policy, they’re going to look at legality. And unfortunately, all we can do is keep our fingers cross.

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