Saving Obamacare repeal, again
The Republicans take more time to measure it to avoid cutting it twice
“Measure it twice and cut it once” is always better than “measure it once and cut it twice.” That’s Mitch McConnell’s strategy for getting the health-care repeal and replace legislation through the U.S. Senate, and if it invites sneers from the Democrats and the pundits and other dealers in columny, so what. Stitching together smart legislation is never easy. The Fourth of July is not a deadline.
Indeed, if Barack Obama had taken the time, trouble and compassion to measure Obamacare, which is what everyone calls the Affordable Care Act, at least twice, and to take into account the concerns of Republicans and other conservatives, he might have come up with health care that others would be eager to share. But he didn’t, preferring to compel rather than persuade.
There’s no bipartisan measuring this time, either, but the Democrats have no interest in altering Obamacare, even as it implodes around the edges a little bit every day, waiting for the explosion that will put it in complete ruins. Nancy Pelosi speculated that Congress had to enact Obamacare to see what was in it, and she led the Democratic Congress to enact it. Now everybody sees the awful stuff that’s in it. Obamacare is Barack Obama’s legacy, and he and his friends in Congress insist on saving it at all cost, which will be considerable.
The Republicans, for their part, were loud and brave in denouncing Obamacare through two Obama terms, and they should have been ready with a replacement when they took back the White House. But, like everyone else, they never expected Donald Trump to take back the White House. Hillary Clinton was the inevitable president for a second time. The Republicans weren’t ready with the replacement because they, too, thought they would have another four years, and maybe more, to continue railing about Obamacare. It was fun while it lasted.
Any repealing legislation would be difficult, as we have seen with a succession of failed attempts, first in the House before the leadership cobbled together something passable, and now in the Senate, where the fractured majority can’t work up sufficient enthusiasm for something short of what everybody wants.
The best that can be said for it is that it’s better than Obamacare. The replacement will never please everyone. Nothing will. But the Senate bill, says Jack Howard, senior vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “will repeal the most egregious taxes and mandates of Obamacare,” and that’s not spinach. It would repeal a tax on medical devices and eliminate penalties on large employers that do not supply coverage to their employees.
It’s not just the Democratic minority lined up against the Senate bill. The Club for Growth, a conservative political-action group, has come out strongly against because it’s not conservative enough. “The Club for Growth and the American people took Republicans at their word when they promised to repeal every word — “root and branch” — of Obamacare and replace it with a patient-centered approach to health care,” says David McIntosh, president of the club. “Only in Washington does ‘repeal’ translate to ‘restore.’ Because that’s exactly what the Senate Republican health-care bill does. It restores Obamacare.”
Only in Washington do lobbying groups claim to speak for “the American people,” but when Congress adjourns to go home for the Fourth of July the senators will actually hear, if they’re listening, the American people. We suspect they’ll get an earful.
The Trump administration, like the Congress, is divided over what comes next, especially over the subsidies the big insurance companies get to redeem costs of reducing out-of-pocket expenses of low-income Americans. When Congress returns it should be armed with the wishes of “the American people,” and it can return to the task of replacing and repealing Mr. Obama’s health failing legacy.