If Republicans retake the Senate, repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be a high priority. You read that right. Despite more than 50 failed attempts in the House, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) tells The Post that a GOP-dominated Senate should “pursue every means possible to repeal Obamacare.” What’s always missing from the clamor for “repeal” is the articulation of a replacement.
Demanding specifics on replacement is not an abstract political exercise. Junking Obamacare would have real-life impact on real people. Folks who finally have health insurance because the ACA made it illegal for insurers to deny coverage because of a preexisting condition. Or because they are under age 26 and can be covered by a parent’s policy. Or because there are low-cost plans and subsidies to help make coverage affordable. Because of this, a Gallup survey released last month showed the number of uninsured at 13.4 percent, the lowest rate in seven years of tracking. Another measure reported in the New York Times yesterday estimates that “the national uninsured rate for adults under 65 fell to 11 percent from 16 percent” between 2013 and 2014. Oh, and Obamacare is reducing the deficit.
Now, there is a proposal out there for a post-Obamacare world. Last month, Virginia Senate candidate Ed Gillespie (R) revealed his alternative, which The Post editorial board deemed “would be worse than the Affordable Care Act.”
The proposal aims to reduce government spending on health care for the young and middle-aged. Much of what it does allow would pay for tax credits to help people buy health insurance. Everyone — lower-, middle- and upper-class — of a certain age group would get the same amount of help, even if some wouldn’t need it to pay premiums and others would struggle to make premium payments of any kind without assistance. . . .
Those with preexisting conditions would find some protection in Mr. Gillespie’s program but with strict limits. If they went without health insurance for even relatively brief amounts of time, for example, insurance companies would be able to hike their rates or refuse them coverage, locking them out of the ordinary insurance market. In addition, the repeal of Obamacare’s consumer protections would allow insurance companies to deter high-risk patients by carefully shaping their coverage plans — refusing to cover certain HIV or cancer medications, for example.
Cruz won’t get the votes needed to repeal the ACA. “[T]he reality is that it’ll take 60 votes to repeal it and Republicans will have nowhere near that amount,” Ron Bonjean told The Post. “If Obamacare remains the focus, he will certainly get the base jazzed up about what he’s doing, but he won’t get rid of the law.”
“The expected new Republican leadership in the Senate and Speaker Boehner in the House must work on demonstrable progress on the macro-messaging legislative vehicles conservatives are expecting,” such as the repeal of Obamacare, Republican strategist Juleanna Glover told me yesterday. “A swift ACA repeal vote in both houses is what the most right-leaning want most.”
But let’s get serious. Even if Cruz and Senate Republicans were successful in repealing Obamacare, there is no way such a wrong-headed act would become law. President Obama would veto the measure faster than Cruz can shut down the government in a fit of pique.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj