It made for quite the blustery applause line during his presidential campaign, when President Donald Trump would call “Obamacare” a “disaster” and vowed his first act would be to repeal this dastardly action from President Obama.
But now the president isn’t just between a rock and a hard place, he’s mired in infighting in that Washington swamp he was planning to drain. Trump promised media outlets that everyone in America’s going to have health insurance, no worries. He already has acted through executive orders to hinder expansion of the ACA, though he and Republicans have no plan of their own — despite repeatedly assuring the American people they did — and there’s infighting in the GOP.
Trump’s designated Health and Human Services secretary, a Georgia congressman named Tom Price (also a doctor), has been a vociferous opponent of the ACA, and wants to abolish it with a thin substitute of tax credits, encouraging health savings accounts and high-risk pools in the states. That would leave many people, particularly poor people, uncovered. Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan also includes tax credits, but Ryan’s also talking about an overhaul of Medicare, which his more practical colleagues know is a good way to get a one-way ticket home from voters.
The problem with Republican attacks on the ACA, of course, is that they’re based in one and virtually only one thing: partisan hatred of President Obama, for whom the ACA was a signature success. Roughly 20 million people got insurance, the deficit didn’t blow up and the conventional health care system didn’t implode.
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But President Obama is gone, and it now appears Republicans are ready to fight with each other. Millions of Americans relying on the ACA are worried, and they should be.
After initially attacking “Obamacare” in their campaigns on the national and state level, Republicans found that the ACA wasn’t as unpopular as they wanted it to be. So they started talking about “repeal and replace” as their goal.
But the greatest danger now is that GOP lawmakers will repeal the ACA with some sort of gauzy pledge to find a replacement in the future. And then, there would be no replacement.
That wouldn’t bother the members of Congress who enjoy the federal health insurance that covers them and their families, but it might bother constituents who, though they didn’t like President Obama, also don’t like the idea of kicking millions of Americans to the uninsured curb.
It appears the best outcome to the debate might be a continuation of the ACA with strong rhetoric from the GOP about how they’re going to replace it with something better, which they’re working on. That will give the party time to come up with an alternative that bears a remarkable resemblance to Obamacare, but is called “Trumpcare,” and will allow people to retain their insurance.