The Roadmap to Obamacare Repeal

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Former Bush National Economic Council Director Keith Hennessey provides a How-To Guide for the upcoming Eradicate & Replace campaign that Republicans will wage against Obamacare.

Hennessey, who blogs at, writes that a win by Mitt Romney and a simple majority of Republican senators – as well as a GOP House – will suffice for the repeal, something I’ve also written here at WHD. But Hennessey, who was also a top policy aide to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and knows Capitol Hill procedures well, is specific about how this can be done.

Hennessey writes that most of the law can be repealed through the reconciliation process – which avoids a filibuster and requires only 50 votes for passage, instead of the usual 60 – and that the rest will then fall on its own:

Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that the financial penalty enforcing the individual mandate is within Congress’s constitutional power to “lay and collect Taxes,” and that the mandate and penalty are inextricably linked. This should suffice to enable repeal, through reconciliation, of both the individual and employer mandates, and their respective penalty taxes.

The state exchanges and insurance rules—”guaranteed issue,” which forces an insurer to sell a policy to someone who is already sick, and “community rating,” which severely limits the insurer’s right to charge that person a higher premium—are procedurally more difficult. Yet both are linked to the individual mandate, which increases taxes. Whether they can be repealed in a reconciliation bill will ultimately be decided by the Senate Parliamentarian.

Once the individual mandate is repealed, these popular insurance changes cannot stand by themselves. Without the mandate, people have every incentive to save on premiums and not buy insurance until they fall ill. This will send premiums through the roof for healthy people and, if the government clamps down on increased premiums, destroy private insurance companies. Those Republicans who say they favor legislated guaranteed-issue and community-rating requirements but oppose the mandate will be forced to acknowledge that all three must go.

He also offers a list of Republican alternatives to Obamacare, which the GOP in general has poorly articulated. Part of what Hennessey suggests are ways to increase individual responsibility for health insurance decisions, which are a cornerstone of reining in costs.

The Roberts decision is a calamity for conservatives and an outrage. But if the country twice elects a president who wants to Socialize a fifth of the economy, than the country has made its choice and must live with it.

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Award winning journalist Keith Koffler has 16 years of experience covering Washington. As a reporter for CongressDaily, National Journal magazine, and Roll Call, Keith wrote primarily from the White House, covering three presidents and learning as few have the intricacies of the West Wing and the behavior and motivations of its occupants. While mainly stationed at the White House, he also extensively covered Congress and Washington’s lobbyists. Keith has also written for a variety of other publications, including Politico, The Daily Caller, and The London Observer. He currently writes regular opinion columns for Politico. He blogs at

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