Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) held a news conference Tuesday with fellow Democrats on Tuesday to roll out their new health-care proposal in the wake of the administration’s announcement that it supported complete invalidation of the Affordable Care Act in a 5th Circuit case. The court move came as an unexpected political gift to Democrats.

Pelosi reminded the media:

Last night, in federal court, the Justice Department of the Trump Administration – you’d think they have more to do – decided to not only try to destroy protections for preexisting conditions, but to tear down every last benefit and protection the ACA affords.
The GOP will never stop trying to destroy the affordable health care of America’s families. I always think of Mr. Clyburn and John Lewis when they quote Martin Luther King, when he talks about, ‘of all the injustices, the most inhumane is the inequality of health care.’

What Democrats propose is the sort of step-by-step expansion of Obamacare that both Republicans and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) vehemently oppose. Republicans want nothing; Sanders wants to scrap everything in favor of single-payer health care.

The House Democrats’ bill sets out a proposal to, among other things, reduce health-care premiums (capping out-of-pocket costs at 10 percent of income) and expanding tax credits for those beyond 400 percent of the federal poverty line ($104,000 for a family of four). Protect Our Care, a progressive group backing the legislation, explains, “In all, the bill’s extended tax credits, reinsurance programs and premium assistance would cut premiums for all ACA-compliant plans sold on the individual market, reducing premiums or deductibles for 13 million with individual market coverage and creating lower cost options for 12 million uninsured people eligible for coverage through the marketplace.” The bill also reinstates the guarantee for those with preexisting conditions, disallows non-ACA compliant plans and reaffirms the list of essential health-care benefits to be covered by the ACA.

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In contrast to the administration that has tried to discourage ACA exchange sign-ups, the Democrats’ bill would “restore marketing funding for health care sold through the marketplace, which the Trump administration has cut by 90 percent since taking office . . . [and] for health navigator groups that help people sign up for comprehensive care, which has been cut by 77 percent since the President Trump took office.”

Recent polling shows that voters want lower costs and expansion of coverage. There is little popular support for ripping out all private health-care coverage (obtained through employers or otherwise) and even less for taking health-care coverage away from 20 million people.

What have the Republicans got? Nothing except a desire to obliterate all of the ACA. If they whine that the Democrats’ plan is too expensive, Democrats (after guffawing at the nerve of the party that rang up the biggest deficits in history) are likely to suggest clawing back some of the tax cuts for the rich, which were so unpopular Republicans could not run on their handiwork in 2018.

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The proposal should also serve as a warning to Democratic presidential candidates that following Sanders down the rabbit hole marked “Medicare-for-all” is foolish politically and unresponsive to voters’ demands. They should feel comfortable either endorsing the House plan or coming up with their own add-ons to Obamacare. At a time Republicans still are trying to repeal Obamacare, these steps are hardly insignificant.

To the contrary, as the latest Quinnipiac poll shows, “American voters say 55 - 32 percent they would prefer to improve rather than replace the health care system in the U.S. No listed group prefers replacing the health care system.” That includes 60 percent of Democrats. A public option gets support from 61 percent of Democrats and 51 percent overall. (While putting everyone in Medicare gets even higher support from Democrats and more than 40 percent of all voters’ support, poll after poll shows support nose-dives when it is explained that all private insurance would disappear.)

House Democrats would be wise to pass the bill, send it to the Senate and then hold Republicans accountable if they refuse to vote on it and the court strikes down the ACA. Meanwhile, presidential candidates should reassure voters that they can deliver real, meaningful relief that is also feasible — and much preferable to a bumper-sticker slogan with no chance of passing Congress.

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As for Democratic incumbents and Democratic challengers up in 2020, the choice between nothing and Obamacare-plus will provide the stark contrast they seek to make with Republicans.

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