Tea Partiers demand more federal control over health care

TEA PARTIERS DEMAND MORE FEDERAL CONTROL OVER HEALTH CARE…. Jonathan Cohn has a great item this morning, highlighting a baffling health-care effort from Tea Party activists, who don’t seem to understand what they’re doing.

The idea is to oppose the Affordable Care Act not in the Congress or the courts, where they’ve been fighting so far, but in the state legislatures. As you may recall, the Act calls upon states to create the new “exchanges,” through which individuals and small businesses will be able to buy regulated insurance policies at affordable prices. The simplest way to do that is for state legislatures to pass laws creating exchanges that conform to the Act’s standards. Several states have started that process already — and a few, like California, are well along in their efforts.

But Tea Party activists have been lobbying state lawmakers to vote against such measures and, in a few states, it looks like they’re succeeding. […]

It’s a great idea for blocking the law, except for one small problem: The Affordable Care Act anticipates that some states might not create adequate exchanges. And the law is quite clear about what happens in those cases. The federal government takes over, creating and then, as necessary, managing the exchanges itself.

Exactly. In states like Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina, right-wing activists have rallied to undermine, and even kill, proposals to establish state-based exchanges. Apparently, as conservatives see it, if they can defeat exchanges in state capitols, they can undermine the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in their area.

But as is too often the case, the Tea Party crowd doesn’t know quite enough about the policy to understand what they’re doing. If policymakers in Atlanta don’t create an exchange, for example, Georgians will simply join an exchange created in Washington.

In other words, Tea Partiers are unwittingly fighting aggressively to expand federal control over health care.

For the record, I’m fine with that. If it were up to me, the Affordable Care Act would have created federal exchanges anyway, since it seems likely that some states might screw it up.

It just never occurred to me that Tea Partiers might agree.

Jonathan’s headline asks whether the Tea Party crowd is “really clever” or “really dumb.” I’ll assume that’s a rhetorical question.