Oba­macare lives on; thanks, GOP

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

With Congress and the White House in Repub­li­can con­trol, the years­long GOP prom­ise to undo Oba­macare ap­pears to have gasped its last breath. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell made that clear Mon­day night, af­ter a to­tal of four Repub­li­can sen­a­tors said they could not sup­port the lat­est re­write.

“Re­gret­fully, it is now ap­par­ent that the ef­fort to re­peal and im­me­di­ately re­place the fail­ure of Oba­macare will not be suc­cess­ful,” McCon­nell said in a state­ment, af­ter Repub­li­can Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Jerry Mo­ran of Kansas joined Sens. Su­san Collins of Maine and Rand Paul of Ken­tucky in bail­ing.

While Repub­li­cans were con­sid­er­ing a re­peal-only mea­sure Tues­day — a strat­egy Pres­i­dent Donald Trump sup­ports — Se­nate ob­servers say that plan is a non­starter.

We cheer the white flag, and wish our own Sen. Cory Gard­ner had joined the hold­outs in his party, as we urged him to do last month. Through­out this process, it has been clear that de­spite their years of com­plain­ing about Oba­macare — and pledg­ing from the cam­paign trail, as Trump did, to de­rail it — there never was a vi­able plan. Worse, Repub­li­cans proved them­selves to be breath­tak­ingly hyp­o­crit­i­cal in the process, blam­ing Democrats for rush­ing through the bill when in fact the van­quished party, on the whole, worked on the plan more trans­par­ently.

But we also share some of the ma­jor­ity leader’s re­gret. What McCon­nell was try­ing to push through wasn’t the right course for the mil­lions of Amer­i­cans who would have lost cov­er­age and for states wor­ried about how cuts to Med­i­caid were go­ing to harm the least pow­er­ful of cit­i­zens. But McCon­nell and Com­pany were right to try to do some­thing to fix prob­lems in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture Af­ford­able Care Act, for af­ford­able isn’t an ap­pel­la­tion that quite fits.

As The Den­ver Post’s John In­gold re­cently re­ported, in Colorado in­sur­ers are seek­ing to raise health in­surance pre­mi­ums in the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket by al­most 27 per­cent next year. No doubt, Colorado in­surance com­mis­sioner Mar­guerite Salazar is right to place some of the blame for the ris­ing costs on “the du­bi­ous sit­u­a­tion at the fed­eral level” and the “Trump fac­tor” that has given in­sur­ers the hee­bie-jee­bies. But health care costs had been ris­ing for years be­fore McCon­nell’s push. Last year in our state, pre­mi­ums for the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket rose 20 per­cent.

Yes, the in­di­vid­ual mar­ket is but 8 per­cent of the over­all mar­ket, but that’s still hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple. And costs are ris­ing for em­ployer-pro­vided in­surance and on the ex­changes as well. Com­pli­cat­ing the prob­lem, in­sur­ers also are ex­it­ing some mar­kets, leav­ing large swaths of com­mu­ni­ties with only one provider, a dy­namic that also raises rates.

Per­haps now Repub­li­cans will seek out their col­leagues on the other side of the aisle to ad­dress Oba­macare’s faults more re­spon­si­bly.

Some Repub­li­cans — in­clud­ing Con­gress­man Mike Coff­man of Aurora — al­ready are ar­gu­ing for ways to work with their Demo­cratic peers in the re­form ef­fort.

While it’s hard to imag­ine a bi­par­ti­san com­ing to­gether, it’s what’s needed. We urge the Grand Old Party to give it a try.

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