Repub­li­can sen­a­tors must em­brace bold­ness to win health care fight

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Mercedes Sch­lapp

What’s miss­ing in the Se­nate th­ese days is bold­ness, the kind needed to take ac­tion on health care — re­peal­ing Oba­macare, sta­bi­liz­ing the in­di­vid­ual in­sur­ance mar­kets, and giv­ing states greater flex­i­bil­ity to shape their own health­care sys­tems.

But be­cause some Repub­li­can sen­a­tors are scared of tak­ing any po­lit­i­cal risk by sup­port­ing the Bet­ter Care Act, they are will­ing to live with Oba­macare as the sta­tus quo and to let the in­di­vid­ual-in­sur­ance mar­ket col­lapse. Con­ser­va­tive Sen. Mike Lee of Utah thinks the bill does not go far enough, while the mod­er­ates think the bill goes too far.

Their in­abil­ity to find com­mon ground is in­fu­ri­at­ing for vot­ers who sup­ported Repub­li­cans in the midterm elec­tions and in 2016. Their man­date is to lead, not to shy away from tough de­ci­sions. The risk is even greater for Repub­li­cans who, de­spite Se­nate lead­er­ship’s ef­forts, are now prov­ing that they have a dif­fi­cult time govern­ing and mak­ing sig­nif­i­cant changes to our health­care sys­tem.

As of this week, GOP sen­a­tors and staff are un­sure what will hap­pen when the Se­nate takes up the House-passed bill next week. Some are slightly hope­ful that the GOP can pass the bill with amend­ments, but it will be an up­hill bat­tle.

If the bill fails, it’s not Pres­i­dent Trump who takes the blame; it will be the Se­nate Repub­li­cans. The pres­i­dent has al­ready sig­naled that he is ready to sign the GOP bill — he wants a leg­isla­tive vic­tory, and he wants it now. The pres­sure is on GOP sen­a­tors to make this hap­pen or suf­fer the po­lit­i­cal back­lash.

And while the Repub­li­cans stum­ble and con­tinue the in­fight­ing, the watch­ing Democrats claim vic­tory.

De­spite his sug­ges­tion to let Oba­macare fail (not a vi­able op­tion), Mr. Trump is right in sug­gest­ing that the Se­nate should stay in Wash­ing­ton dur­ing Au­gust and fin­ish the bill. The Amer­i­can peo­ple want ac­tion and re­sults, and the GOP now owns fix­ing Oba­macare’s fail­ures. The fixes might not be per­fect, but there is an im­me­di­ate need to stop the in­di­vid­ual mar­kets from col­laps­ing across the coun­try and to slow down the rise of pre­mi­ums.

Un­for­tu­nately, real en­ti­tle­ment re­form will likely be shoved aside or weak­ened in the bill to get the mod­er­ates on board. Un­der Oba­macare, Med­i­caid has ex­panded where mil­lions of able-bod­ied adults are now en­rolled in this en­ti­tle­ment pro­gram orig­i­nally cre­ated for the poor and dis­abled.

There is a des­per­ate need to cre­ate greater com­pe­ti­tion among in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and more health-care op­tions that will lower prices and let con­sumers shop for the best in­sur­ance for them­selves and their fam­i­lies. Ei­ther the gov­ern­ment re­duces its role in our health care sys­tem or the fu­ture will be a sin­gle-payer sys­tem where gov­ern­ment — not the con­sumer — is in charge.

Repub­li­cans lived in safe space when they re­pealed Oba­macare in 2015 know­ing that Pres­i­dent Obama would veto their bill. Now it’s time to show true strength and lead­er­ship in fix­ing the Oba­macare mess that they in­her­ited.

Se­nate Democrats know that Oba­macare is in trou­ble and they are only hop­ing for mi­nor tweaks and more bailout money for the in­sur­ance com­pa­nies. They want more en­ti­tle­ment ex­pan­sion and more gov­ern­ment spend­ing. They want a fed­eral gov­ern­ment — not the free mar­ket — in charge of our health­care sys­tem.

Only the GOP can stop the fur­ther en­croach­ment of gov­ern­ment into our health care, and to that end, the time to gov­ern and be bold is now. Mercedes Sch­lapp is a Fox News con­trib­u­tor, co-founder of Cove Strate­gies and for­mer White House di­rec­tor of spe­cialty me­dia un­der Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

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