President Trump, and indeed many Republicans in Congress, campaigned during 2016 on a platform that included taking out Obamacare, the former president’s signature bill that essentially took over health care decision-making across the nation.
But it’s still the law of the land, even as several more members of Congress committed on Wednesday their support for lawmakers’ plans to make changes.
It’s because, according to several analysts, some members of the GOP simply don’t want to get rid of it.
This despite confirmation from White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Wednesday that the system is failing, the costs are out of control and insurance companies are fleeing the program as quickly as they can.
Byron York at the Washington Examiner explained House Speaker Paul Ryan’s latest approach, after an earlier proposal was abruptly withdrawn even as members were lining up to vote because supporters feared it would go down in flames.
“We’re going to go when we have the votes,” Ryan said recently.
But why is that so? Obamacare was approved by only Democrats when they controlled the House, Senate and White House. Now those are all in GOP hands.
York pointed out that. “Republicans have 238 seats in the House. Repealing Obamacare will require 217 votes. Even with unanimous Democratic opposition, Republicans could lose 21 votes and still prevail on repeal. Why haven’t they done it?”
He explained, “By this time, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Republicans have not repealed Obamacare because a lot of Republicans do not want to repeal Obamacare. They don’t even want to sorta repeal Obamacare. The bill currently on the table, like the bill pulled in March, falls far short of a full repeal of Obamacare. And yet Republicans still cannot agree on it.”
York cited his sources, some unidentified, some identified, for that perspective.
One unnamed source told him, “It is a problem that we have members in the Republican conference that do not want Obamacare repealed, because of their district. That’s the fundamental thing that we’re seeing here.”
York continued, “In a phone conversation Thursday afternoon, another Republican, Rep. Steve King, quibbled a bit with the number of House Republicans who don’t want to repeal Obamacare – he would put it in the 40s – but felt certain there are lots of Republicans who don’t want to repeal. ‘If you don’t want to get rid of federal mandates to health insurance, then it’s pretty clear you don’t want to get rid of Obamacare,’ King said.”
Rep. Jim Jordon said on Fox News that people know that whatever plan is eventually approved, if it is approved, will not be a full repeal of Obamacare.
“But it’s as good as we think we can get right now,” he said.
One House member, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said on Fox on Wednesday that the current effort needs to be dropped cold – and a new White House-originated plan, based on the “drain the swamp” and “repeal” ideas Trump campaigned on, needs to be proposed.
Others remind that there are thousands of pages of Obamacare, with tens of thousands of pages of rules that were imposed based on the law, and that’s not something that can simply be handled with a single “repeal” vote.
In fact, it took Obama two years to pass Obamacare, and some observers suggest it will take as long to get rid of it.
So what’s happened since those flowery campaign commitments?
“A pure repeal would get less than 200 votes,” another House member told York. “It really is one of the biggest political shams in history – many of these members would not have been elected without promising repeal, and now they are wilting. Some are even complaining that [the Rep. Tom MacArthur amendment] pushes the bill too far right – even though is it far short of a full repeal.”
Matt O’Brien at the Washington Post shared the opinion.
He said it appears Republicans’ new strategy for not replacing Obamacare is to make moderates kill the plan… “and it’s working.”
“Now this plan might seem strange when Republicans have spent the last seven years acting like Obamacare was the worst thing to happen to the country since the British burned down the White House in 1814. But it’s a little less so if you listen to what their individual members are actually saying,” he explained.
“Some Republicans, you see, are philosophically opposed to the very idea of Obamacare giving health insurance to the poor and sick, while others are only politically opposed to the idea of a president named Obama doing so. If anything, they think that Obamacare doesn’t go far enough to keep deductibles down. Which, as I’ve said before, means that the GOP is stuck in an old Woody Allen joke: It thinks the problem with Obamacare, metaphorically speaking, is that the food is terrible and the portions are too small. Good luck putting those together.”
The most recent surge in support for the GOP replacement plan comes from Reps. Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Billy Long, R-Mo., who Wednesday changed from opposing the plan to supporting it.
They confirmed their support after meeting with the president, and Upton suggested it now is likely “to pass the House.”
They had been, together, a stumbling block earlier. They charged that the new plan failed to protect people with pre-existing conditions. But an amendment was added to address that.
Upton revealed a vote in the House Rules Committee could happen as early as this week, which observers noted would not allow time for a Congressional Budget Office analysis that includes changes.
Another change came from Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., requested by the House Freedom Caucus, that lets states waive Obamacare protections that prevent people from being charged higher premiums based on their health.
Even as the negotiations continued in Washington, the Washington Examiner reported that there was only one insurer operating in 94 of Iowa’s 99 counties, after the departures of Aetna and Wellmark, and it was plotting its exit.
“Next year may be the first in which there are zero Obamacare insurers in some U.S. counties,” the report said, citing the problems are two Obamacare demands, “‘Community rating,’ which requires that everyone of the same age be offered the same price for coverage, and ‘guaranteed issue,’ which requires that all applicants be accepted, regardless of pre-existing conditions,” said the report.
“Without the ability to price for health risk, and with only limited ability to charge more for age, insurers find themselves unable to make money. They could respond by raising premiums even further, but this risks making the problem worse by scaring away the healthiest customers,” the report said.
Trump has encouraged Congress to work on a solution to Obamacare’s failures – even before they program implodes as he has forecast could happen.
But one of the key issues is the tax issue.
“I think the hesitation has only been to be able to digest this, to be able to think about how it applies back home, before they commit their vote. The conversations that I’ve been in are very positive and we’re just going to keep working on it,” said Brady.
He’s not worried about a time deadline.
Hear the interview:
“I’m a big believer in letting the consensus drive the timing. So don’t set a date. I want to deliver on my promise to repeal Obamacare: all the taxes, all the mandates, all the subsidies, defund Planned Parenthood and return control to the states. That is what I am intent on doing,” said Brady.
Brady, who played a key role in crafting the original American Health Care Act, says the current bill is an improvement.
“Centrists and conservatives sat down and said, ‘How can we make this better?’ As a result, the MacArthur amendment , as well as the Palmer amendment before it, continue to lower premiums , which is what we want for every American, gives states more flexibility to design plans that are right for the state and the community rather than Washington control,” said Brady.