ATLANTA — The response some Georgia Democrats and Republicans offer on the Obamacare has changed in recent days, each swayed by different realities about the most far-reaching federal law in half a century.
From the time it was first proposed, through its rush passage by Congress until this month’s beginning of its central application, Democrats have unfailingly defended it, and Republicans have tried to stop it all together. Suddenly, each is saying something new.
Now, some Republicans are reconciled to the fact that they have lost any chance of using their influence to halt its implementation, especially after their public-relations disaster in the government shutdown.
“Whether you like it or dislike it, it’s the law, and I think way too many folks are still pouting and whining instead of dealing with the reality,” said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who had gone so far as to argue against the law in the U.S. Supreme Court.
But he said he isn’t looking to repeat that tactic.
“I don’t sit in my office every day figuring out what’s my next lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act. I gave it the best shot I had,” he said.
Olens counseled the 500 members of the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce attending an all-day seminar on the law last week to accept it and begin to look for ways to revise it.
Sitting beside him at the seminar was Rep. Tom Price, the Roswell, Ga., physician who has been among the leaders in Congress fighting the Obamacare concept from the beginning. He called for patience. The law will unravel on its own soon enough, he said.
Olens had a hand in the unraveling Price predicts. The attorney general persuaded the nation’s top court that the expansion of Medicare should be at the option of individual states.
That left a gap in coverage in states like Georgia that didn’t choose expansion leaving 400,000 people here and millions across the country who won’t not qualify for the taxpayer subsidy designed to make premiums affordable. It will be politically difficult to enforce the mandate to buy insurance against people who can’t afford it.
Another case waiting to be decided by the Supreme Court could unravel more of the law. Oklahoma argues the wording of the law only allows those subsidies for people living where their states have chosen to operate the exchanges individuals and small businesses buy their coverage through. Those living in states like Georgia that left operation of the exchanges to the federal government wouldn’t qualify, Oklahoma argues.
It is the operation of those federal exchanges that has led some Democrats like Rep. John Barrow of Augusta and Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn to call for a delay in enforcing the coverage mandate. Problems with the website have been well documented, and that doesn’t include other challenges like the dozen or so “navigators” expected to assist more than 1 million Georgians who aren’t computer savvy.
Nunn said Obamacare is basically good.
“But we need to fix what’s wrong with the law,” she said.
Politically, her stance opened up the first daylight between her and President Obama on any policy and may serve her well in a state where polls show a majority oppose the law. It also opened her to charges of opportunism from opponents.
Republicans like Price smile at the idea of a Democratic-led delay. After all, that was the central goal of the tea party in shutting down the government.
They believe a delay will be the final unraveling of the law.
(Walter Jones is the Atlanta bureau chief for Morris News Service. Follow him on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and (404) 589-8424.)