Byron York
2014 will be the year Republicans are forced to deal with the Obamacare Trap, helpfully set for them by the Democratic authors of the Affordable Care Act.

In 2009 and 2010, President Obama and his party took a health care system in which 85 percent had insurance coverage, and blew it up. Now, with Obamacare causing misery right and left, those same Democrats are screaming, "You can't go back!"

The national health care scheme they designed is so complex and has already embedded itself so deeply in the health care system, they argue, that it can never be repealed. The only course now is for lawmakers of both parties to "fix" Obamacare's problems.

The argument will be heard more and more as the burdens imposed by Obamacare -- canceled policies, higher premiums, higher deductibles, narrower doctor networks, restricted choices of prescription drugs and more -- become a reality for millions of Americans. The situation could become even more politically charged if, as many experts expect, the burdens that have so far beset those in the individual insurance market spread to the small-group market and ultimately to the larger universe of all people who receive coverage through their jobs.

In such a scenario, Democrats will ratchet up their demands that Republicans join them in "fixing" the law. They will condemn Republicans who declare Obamacare beyond repair and decline to go along. And at the same time, Democrats will steadfastly refuse to back down in their full support of the law they -- and they alone -- passed that is causing all the trouble. The blame, they will argue, lies with the GOP.

It's an astonishingly brazen strategy. And it might work.

Already, some Republicans appear to be wavering on the insistence that repeal must be the first step in minimizing the damage done by Obamacare. In a weird irony, the more serious the problems of Obamacare become, the less likely some Republicans are to demand repeal.

"It's so bad that you just can't let it happen," says one well-connected GOP strategist. "My sense is, at least at this point, it's gotten so bad that as much as you don't want to fix Obamacare, you just can't let the impact of this happen."

Says a House Republican aide: "Measures that provide Americans some form of relief from the most painful parts of Obamacare don't have to begin with repeal."


Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner