Reversing on their past condemnation of the use of a budget procedure called “reconciliation,” The Wall Street Journal praised Republicans for using the tactic in their latest attempt to repeal Obamacare. The Journal also bashed, the law falsely claiming the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has resulted in “huge” premium increases, and showed little concern for the millions of Americans who would lose healthcare if the law is repealed.
In a January 5 editorial, The Wall Street Journal praised Senate Republicans for narrowly passing legislation that would repeal the ACA via a parliamentary procedure called “reconciliation” -- a Senate budget tactic to avoid filibusters. After praising the GOP's repeal bill, which President Obama has vowed to veto, The Journal went on to attack the health care reform law, falsely claiming that the “law is failing on every level” and creating “huge” increases in health care premiums. From The Journal:
Republicans are now using the special “reconciliation” procedure that allows a budget bill to pass with a simple majority--which can only be used once a year--to get around Harry Reid's bone yard. Kvetchers on the right who say the Congress never does anything should be pleased, unless their griping was merely for political show.
This achievement is all the more notable for traveling through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations or blowing up century-old Senate rules, as some activists have demanded. The bill passed through patient, unglamorous legislative work, with House and Senate Republicans working together to make policy advances instead of degenerating into infighting and recriminations as usual.
This is what the GOP promised voters in 2014. Fifty-two of the 54 Senate Republicans voted for the bill, which passed 52-47 over unanimous Democratic opposition. Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois were the two GOP dissenters.
Reconciliation is the process where the U.S. Senate can vote on budget amendments with a simple majority of 51 votes, and a senator cannot object to force a 60-vote threshold to move forward as is the case with all other bills and amendments. The Journal referred to Republicans using this tactic to attempt to gut Obamacare as a so-called “achievement” that traveled “through the regular channels of constitutional government, without Armageddon-style confrontations.” But The Journal failed to mention that in the past its editorial board held the opposite view on the use of reconciliation to make changes to health care. The Journal also did not explain that perhaps the reason no “Armageddon-style confrontations” occurred is because the bill will be vetoed by the president and Republicans could only muster 52 votes in support of repeal, far below the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. The bill is dead on arrival, as was the case the previous 60 times congressional Republicans passed symbolic repeal votes.
In 2010, when the bill that would become the Affordable Care Act was being considered, The Journal was loudly opposed to Senate Democrats using reconciliation to pass legislation that conservatives were derisively calling “Obamacare.” The Journal called passing Obamacare via reconciliation “an abuse of the traditional Senate process” and claimed “we have entered a political wonderland.” Journal editorial board member Daniel Henninger even wrote a column proclaiming “reconciliation could damage the institution of the Senate for years.”
The Journal's January 5 editorial was not only a flip-flop on reconciliation, it was laden with inaccuracies about the law, some of which ignored The Wall Street Journal's own reporting. The one specific issue the paper wished to focus on as a so-called “failure” was the myth that premium increases have been unexpectedly “huge” since the law took effect and are set to spike in 2016. On the contrary, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently noted, premium costs and subsidies came in under expectations in 2014 and 2015. Typical health insurance premiums for 2016 are predicted to have a higher rate increase than the past two years, but The Journal failed to point out that much of this increase was not only expected, it will be covered by insurance subsidies.
After accounting for available subsidies, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates the average national premium rate increase from 2015 to 2016 will be 3.6 percent. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is predicting slower-than-expected premium growth, and has revised its numbers to show federal spending on premiums will be 20 percent less than previously projected:
Furthermore, The Journal also failed to mention that insurance customers are free to choose new plans and providers every year, some of which may prove more cost effective than others. Charles Gaba of ACASignups.net pointed out that because individuals can change insurers, it is important to shop around and that those who do so may see smaller increases for 2016.
In yet another flip-flop, The Journal falsely claimed that no one ever “argued that a new entitlement couldn't reduce the uninsured rate.” In fact, The Journal made such claims in an October 25, 2015 editorial hyping fears that supposedly low insurance enrollment for 2016 meant health care reform “won't survive.” Such enrollment fears from The Journal were later debunked and research showed enrollment numbers had been adjusted because more Americans stayed on employer-provided insurance than originally anticipated.
In spite of its previous remarks against using reconciliation, its attempts to delegitimize enrollment numbers, and the fact that expected insurance premium costs have been revised downward, The Wall Street Journal still celebrated the latest, fruitless Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare, which if successful could strip health care coverage from at least 17 million Americans.