Remember when GOP congressional leaders said they would repeal the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare” by January 27th? Yeah, that didn’t happen. Republicans miss own deadline to begin repeal of Obamacare. They later asserted the deadline was just a “placeholder” on the calendar.
Tea-Publicans blamed our Dear Leader Donald Trump, in part, because he told the Washington Post in an interview in mid-January before his inauguration that he was nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of “insurance for everybody.” (Trump declined to reveal specifics in the telephone interview with the Washington Post).
Like everything else this egomaniacal Twitter troll says, it was a lie. He had no plan, he never did.
President Trump said in an interview that aired on Sunday that a replacement health care law was not likely to be ready until either the end of this year or in 2018, a major shift from promises by both him and Republican leaders to repeal and replace the law as soon as possible.
“Maybe it’ll take till sometime into next year, but we’re certainly going to be in the process,” Mr. Trump said during an interview with Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, after Mr. O’Reilly asked the president whether Americans could “expect a new health care plan rolled out by the Trump administration this year.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan had vowed to move legislation for a replacement for the Affordable Care Act by the end of March. But some Republicans are worried about a political backlash if they repeal the law without an adequate replacement — potentially throwing millions of people off their insurance — and have urged a more methodical approach.
Steve Benen reports that congressional leaders are not working on a health care replacement plan. On health care, Republicans are lost without a map:
So, how’s that Republican plan to repeal, replace, and repair “Obamacare” going? Not well.
Senate Republicans have not yet begun to work in earnest on a replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said on Tuesday. It was a rare public admission of what has become obvious from the outside, as Republicans find both the politics and the substance of Obamacare repeal more difficult in practice than in rhetoric.
“To be honest, there’s not any real discussion taking place right now,” Corker told reporters in the Capitol.
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As for the president, who’s never seemed to understand the basics of the debate or the process, Donald Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly the other day that he and his team are putting together “a wonderful plan,” which Americans may be able to see “within the year or the following year.”
As the GOP repeal crusade hits a brick wall, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this wasn’t the way Republicans expected the process to go. As recently as Jan. 10, Trump said his party would repeal the health care reform law “probably sometime next week,” and he’d be ready to move forward on a replacement “very quickly or simultaneously, very shortly thereafter.” A few days earlier, Mike Pence said repealing the ACA would be the “first order of business” for Republican policymakers in 2017.
The entire campaign was going to snowball before Obamacare proponents even knew what hit them – right up until the snowball melted.
Even at the recent House Republican retreat, which was supposed to be a working meeting at which GOP lawmakers reached some important policy decisions about health care, we know from private recordings that Republicans are as confused behind the scenes as they are in public.
To be sure, the party knows where it wants to end up, but for now, it’s lost without a map. Republicans may hate “Obamacare” for reasons they’ve struggled to explain, but they have absolutely no idea what to replace it with, despite years of effort trying to figure this out. Trump’s assurances last month that his administration’s blueprint is nearly complete – they’re just crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s – were apparently fiction.
There’s more than one reason to explain how Republicans found themselves in this position. For one thing, they remain deeply divided among themselves, not only over strategy, but also over what their specific goals should be for what an ACA alternative.
For another, while GOP officials assumed there was a broad public appetite for Obamacare repeal, Republicans are also discovering that the Affordable Care Act is (a) increasingly popular; (b) enjoys more support than Trump or Congress; and (c) inspiring activists to put up a fight that has caught Republicans completely off-guard.
Making matters much worse, GOP leaders – on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue – vastly over-promised on what they could deliver, painting the party into a corner from which there is no easy escape.
What’s left is a party that has no plan, but that does have a new buzzword from GOP wordsmith Frank Luntz. The GOP now wants to “repair” the health care system more than they want to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (an attempt to co-opt the Democrats’ “fix it, don’t repeal it” position). The GOP Has No Obamacare Bill. It Does Have a New Buzzword.
It seems oddly appropriate given the circumstances: when Republican policymakers were supposed to be working on substance, in classic post-policy nihilism fashion they instead focused on public relations and talking points.
The core truths, however, remain the same: GOP officials have been working on an alternative to the Affordable Care Act since the summer of 2009, and they’ve produced nothing of significance because they can’t. Their ideology won’t allow them to craft an effective reform blueprint, and political considerations won’t allow them to unveil a bad one.
The New York Times editorializes on a similar theme. Republicans Have Lost the Plot on Their Obamacare Repeal:
President Trump and Republican lawmakers have never been able to explain how they would improve on the Affordable Care Act, which they’ve promised to quickly repeal and replace with something better. Now, it’s increasingly evident that they have no workable plan and might never come up with one.
Congress blew past a self-imposed Jan. 27 deadline to introduce legislation to end the health law. Mr. Trump told Fox News in an interview that ran Sunday that a replacement for the health law might not be ready until next year. Meanwhile, Republican senators like Lamar Alexander and Orrin Hatch have started talking about “repairing” the A.C.A., or Obamacare, rather than removing it root-and-branch. And while House Speaker Paul Ryan still insists that Congress will repeal and replace it this year, his wishful statements are clearly meant in large measure just to placate the burn-it-all-down wing of his caucus.
After campaigning for years against the health care law, Republicans seem to be realizing that it will be incredibly difficult to deliver on Mr. Trump’s promise of providing a program that is better, cheaper and covers more people.
The law has extended health insurance to more than 22 million Americans. Plenty of them are calling lawmakers, showing up at town halls and marching in the streets demanding that Obamacare be preserved. Public support for it has never been higher, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Another poll, by the Pew Research Center, found that 60 percent of Americans say the government should make sure that everybody has health coverage.
None of the Republican plans would accomplish anything close to what the A.C.A. has achieved. A bill introduced by Representative Tom Price, Dr. Personal Enrichment, Mr. Trump’s pick to run the Department of Health and Human Services, would greatly reduce the federal subsidies that help people buy health insurance. It would also eliminate the expansion of Medicaid, the health program for the poor, disabled and elderly, that has covered more than 11 million new people. Mr. Price and other Republicans also want to turn Medicaid into block grants to states, which would result in governors and legislatures cutting benefits and covering fewer people. And House Republicans have proposed privatizing Medicare by giving beneficiaries vouchers to buy private insurance.
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The Trump administration already tried to sabotage the law by pulling about $5 million in ads in the last few days of open enrollment at the end of January. Analysts say that decision helped drive down the number of people who bought policies on HealthCare.gov this year, compared with 2016.
If Republicans are at all concerned about the public interest and their own political futures, they ought to pull back from the chaos they have sown.
There are still Tea Party members, e.g., the GOP House Freedom Caucus, who are insisting that the whole law needs to be tossed as quickly as possible. But they are currently held in check by the “repair” faction of the GOP, as some members realize that a full-scale repeal would be catastrophic for the health care system, and they will suffer the political fallout.
The GOP House Freedom Caucus now plans to divide the GOP Caucus even further by introducing its own “repeal and replace” plan as early as next week, rejecting the recent Frank Luntz advice to focus on “repair.” House Freedom Caucus set to unveil Obamacare repeal and replace plan. This will put added pressure on the GOP leadership from their GOP crazy base. The GOP may tear itself apart over “Obamacare.”