House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says Obamacare is failing. Club for Growth president David McIntosh warns that voters “gave Republicans the charge to repeal and replace Obamacare,” so the “delays and discussions about repairing Obamacare need to stop.” The problem is that voters fear disruption, don’t want to lose what they have and won’t find what Republicans are selling very attractive.
Ask voters, not politicians, what their complaints are about the Affordable Care Act and they’ll say rising premium costs, high deductibles and the individual mandate. Look at what Republicans are offering, however, and you’ll see that they address only one issue — the individual mandate.
Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) suggested that an attempt to duplicate the benefits of the ACA by other means would be unacceptable. Speaking for himself and Freedom Caucus hard-liners in the House, he said that “we’re not into, like, replacing it with some federal programs.” He calls the GOP House approach “Obamacare lite.” Republicans should offer a more minimalist bill, although they need Democrats to pass something, which they won’t get. Got that?
Republicans have several major hurdles. First, they want to repeal Obamacare taxes but are vague on how to pay for their own plan. Second, their ideas — which generally involve making low-cost catastrophic plans available for purchase — aggravate the problem of out-of-pocket expenses. Third, while declaring their intention to protect those with preexisting conditions, their stated schemes (high-risk pools, for example) are unlikely to be sufficient. In essence, Republicans are offering the right to purchase lower-cost, catastrophic care with higher out-of-pocket costs. That’s not unreasonable, but it’s also not responsive to voters’ complaints.
And here’s the rub: According to a New York Times report, there won’t be a plan from the Trump administration. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told House leaders last week that “the administration would let the House draft the replacement bill.” That should be a flashing red light to Republicans. It seems Trump was — shocker! — lying when he previously said in an interview with The Post the White House had drafted a plan that was nearly done. Moreover, by refusing to put his own position in writing, Trump directs criticism of an Obamacare replacement to House Republicans and preserves his option to reject the plan and attack his own party for coming up with an insufficient plan.
Indeed, Republican lawmakers are the ones getting a taste of opposition to their fuzzy replacement plan. As NPR reported on the raucous town hall with Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.):
The backlash is happening in prime Trump country. Reed’s 23rd District, which encompasses the western tip of southern New York, borders Pennsylvania and includes the more liberal college town of Ithaca. It has more in common with the neighboring Keystone State — which Trump carried — than New York City. It’s rural, working-class, and made a big swing for Trump at the ballot box.
Making clear that they were not “paid demonstrators,” the older, working-class audience gave Reed a piece of their mind:
Republicans’ biggest Achilles heel is front and center as they meet with constituents: their lack of a consensus plan to replace former President Obama’s signature health care law, despite making it the cornerstone of their campaign platform for several years.
On Saturday, Reed was repeatedly pressed about how Republicans would propose replacing the ACA. While he said he supported keeping some of the popular provisions in the current law — such as guaranteeing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allowing children up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ plan — on other issues he didn’t have concrete answers, frustrating many in the crowd.
When one constituent in the earlier Ashville gathering asked for the number of the GOP replacement bill so she could look it up, Reed said he would have his staff get back to her. In fact, there isn’t just one bill that’s been proposed, but several. President Trump has said he will roll out his alternative next month.
Things did not get any easier when the subject shifted to Reed’s votes to shield Trump from inquiry. When he tried to defend his vote against requiring Trump to release his tax returns, the crowd “drowned him out with chants of ‘What are you covering up?’ and ‘He’s not a private citizen!’ ” When the subject turned to Russia, the crowd derided Reed as “attendees shouted, ‘Russia! Russia!’ — demanding Reed address the president’s alleged ties to the country and intelligence findings that Russia had tried to meddle in the U.S. elections to help Trump.”
To sum up, Republican House members– whether intentionally or not — are being set up to take the fall for an ill-conceived and incomplete effort to replace an albeit flawed ACA with something potentially worse. Lawmakers had better make sure that Trump has skin in the game and that they are listening to their own voters. They would be wise to stop carrying Trump’s water on his tax returns and his connections to Russia. If not, they risk getting slaughtered at the ballot box in 2018.