For the right, attacks against Obamacare’s market disruption were great fun. Until it doomed their own plan.

By Brian Beutler

Tom Coburn, Paul Ryan (Credit: AP/Sue Ogrocki/J. Scott Applewhite/photo montage by Salon)

Late last year, when conservatives everywhere were grieving publicly for each American who’d received a cancellation notice from a health insurance carrier, the smartest among them realized they had a small problem on their hands.

The wave of cancellations made for great politics, and it was a joy to watch the public’s trust in Obama crater for having promised everyone that they could keep their plans. But by turning an insurance market disruption into a political liability — and a normatively bad thing — Republicans had left themselves very little room to advance conservative health policy ideas.

The cornerstone of nearly every conservative health care reform plan is to eliminate or dramatically reduce the tax preference for employer-sponsored health insurance and use the revenues to help people pay for their own coverage. But the disruptions that would entail would dwarf the ones Obamacare is creating, and conservative wonks realized that by opportunistically attacking Obamacare, political operatives had just crafted the very attacks that could ultimately doom their own policymaking pursuits.