The Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare is in deep deep trouble. It does not have support from the conservative wing and has fierce opposition from moderates and liberals. It is polling at 57-16 against and has majority opposition from conservatives. The most recent CBO analysis indicates that it will reduce the deficit less while still leaving 24 million uninsured. And Trump, demonstrating the great deal-making ability he boasted about, has told the GOP that if they don’t pass it, he’s done with healthcare reform and will just leave Obamacare in place.
Why is this going so wrong? After passing dozens of repeals over the last eight years, why is the GOP in this morass of pushing a healthcare that no one likes? I think the answer is that they’re trying to deal with 2012’s problems instead of 2017’s.
Let me take a step back. As the Iraq War went south and many people demanded that we leave, I pointed that leaving Iraq was not the same as not having invaded it to begin with. Whether the invasion was right or wrong, there was a mess there that was going to get worse if we left. And indeed, our departure set the stage for the rise of ISIS.
We’re in the same place now. Repealing Obamacare is not the same as not having passed it in the first place. The last chance the GOP had for that, realistically, was 2012. Now that Obamacare is ingrained into the system, simply repealing it — even if that were possible — would be a nightmare. Insurance companies have planned out for Obamacare being there. So have individuals. We’d be talking about a major disruption of a two trillion dollar economy.
As a result, the AHCA finds itself trying to serve too many masters: giving the GOP base the instant gratification of an Obamacare repeal while not getting rid of the Obamacare provisions people like; cutting Obamacare taxes while not exploding the deficit; enacting a long-overdue Medicaid reform while trying to cut Medicaid expansion; putting together something that can pass by reconciliation. And the result is this unpopular, unconservative, hastily-revised Frankenstein mess of a proposal. It will only accelerate the collapse of Obamacare while giving the Democrats the ability to blame Republicans for the collapse of their Frankenstein bill.
The GOP needs to let the AHCA die. Maybe just pass the Medicaid reform, which they could probably get the votes for. The short-term political hit will be fierce. But then they could take a year to put together a reform package that deals with the healthcare system we have now, Obamacare and all, not the system we had before Obamacare. The end result would be a package that is much more palatable to conservatives, addresses the damage Obamacare has done to the system and makes insurance more affordable.
Put it together, have hearings, go through the normal process. And then dare the Democrats to filibuster it. At the very least, they’ll have something to run on in 2018 or 2020. And at best, they’ll pass it and fix the mess Obama handed to them.