GOP: Unite against Obamacare

This was published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on August 23, 2013

What can be done about Obamacare?

For the majority of Americans opposed to Obamacare, it is a sad fact that as long as President Barack Obama is in the White House and Majority Leader Harry Reid's Democrats control the Senate, repealing or defunding this monstrosity is next to impossible.

Elections have consequences. The 2008 election gave ideologically extreme Democrats the White House, a House majority and a filibuster-proof Senate, which allowed Reid to jam through Obamacare the morning of Christmas Eve 2009.

In 2012, Obama won another term and Reid maintained an iron grip on the Senate. That is a reality that cannot be ignored as strategies are developed to prevent Obamacare from taking firm or permanent root.

Even so, opportunities abound to focus attention on the true harm this law is unleashing on the average American's health care, on our struggling economy, on the federal budget and on our personal freedoms.

Reid and Sen. Max Baucus were correct in calling the implementation of Obamacare a "train wreck." Numerous unions, strong supporters of the president and his party, are calling for relief. Even Obama acknowledged his administration's inability to implement Obamacare — 31/2 years after its passage — by unilaterally delaying the employer mandate and income verification provisions of the law, an act the law doesn't permit him to do.

Now is not the time for conservatives to turn a squabble over tactics into a circular firing squad. Now is the time to unite and fight to inform, persuade and win the argument, convincing the American people that Obamacare must be stopped.

There is plenty of ammunition.

For example, two significant promises Obama made during the health care debate have already been broken. Obamacare did not decrease the cost of a family plan by $2,500 per year, nor will it. In fact, the cost has increased by more than $3,000. And if you like your health care plan, there is no guarantee you will be able to keep it. Just ask the City of Chicago's retired employees who, according to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will be dumped into exchanges to fend for themselves.

Americans justifiably expect that everyone should be treated fairly. Yet the president delays the employer mandate without giving individuals the same relief. If you are young and healthy, you will be forced to buy insurance at highly inflated prices to subsidize the sick and elderly. The Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) will perform the rationing function of Obamacare, making decisions on who qualifies for what kind of medical treatments.

The Internal Revenue Service — Obamacare's primary enforcing agency — has admitted to politically targeting ordinary Americans and is rapidly developing its ability to invade taxpayer privacy by snooping on Facebook and by tracking online purchases. We also know the IRS intends to turn every American's confidential income information over to the Department of Health and Human Services — supposedly under "strict controls." Every American citizen should be justifiably alarmed.

And now the icing on the cake: Responding to congressional pressure, Obama unilaterally — and again without legal authority — exempted members of Congress and their personal staffs from the full, harsh realities of Obamacare.

Many of the very same members of Congress who imposed Obamacare on ordinary Americans now want to be shielded from portions of it. Americans are outraged, and they should be.

I return to my initial question: What can be done about Obamacare?

It should be repealed. Obamacare is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed in this nation, but as long as Democrats control Washington, they will never allow that to happen.

Republicans should build on the support that House Democrats recently showed in calling for the delay of Obamacare. We should try to remove the most damaging parts and make sure that all Americans — including members of Congress and their staffs — are treated equally under the law. We should then make certain that Obamacare is the preeminent issue in the 2014 congressional elections.

Just as important, those of us who oppose Obamacare must assertively acknowledge the very real problems facing our health care system and demonstrate to America that our proposed solutions are better and actually will work.

The heart of any long-term solution must give patients more control over their health care decisions. Today, 88% of health care is paid by third parties. This system has significantly reduced patient choices and driven up the cost of health care. It has taken the patient — the consumer — out of the equation. Under Obamacare, any future cost controls will be dominated by the heavy hand of government rationing. That dynamic must change.

The sooner conservatives unify and start making that case, the better our chances of turning public opinion decisively in favor of total repeal and policies that preserve consumer choice.

Ron Johnson, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Wisconsin.