The revised “repeal and replace” health care insurance plan from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is an unnecessary exercise in partisan gamesmanship. It is virtually unintelligible and contains a little favor for moderates and a favor here and there for conservatives and would result in a health care insurance system few could understand and one that would leave more Americans at risk.
It is the old jalopy of legislation: You may get it running (meaning through the Senate), but you know it’s going to break down eventually.
McConnell and his ideological soulmates in the Senate have tried to make the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” as they prefer, political profanity. But the problem is, the popularity of the ACA has grown as more Americans have found it a lifesaver, literally and figuratively. More than 20 million have insurance under the ACA who wouldn’t have it otherwise; children have been covered until age 26 under parents’ policies; those with pre-existing conditions who previously have been denied by insurance companies are now covered.
And, the ACA didn’t blow up the deficit as Republicans predicted. Yes, it needs fine-tuning with regard to strengthening the exchanges through which people obtain care, and drug prices need to be better controlled; insurers need more protection, perhaps, from escalating costs that make ACA policies costly to their bottom lines.
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But rather than work to improve the ACA, Republicans have worked to dismantle it. And President Trump, who seems to care only about a “victory” that fulfills one of his most angry campaign promises about repealing the “disaster” of Obamacare (it wasn’t and it isn’t), cares not for the details. He just wants something done.
So McConnell, having backed away from one plan, now has another, which retains some of the taxes on high-earners GOP leaders previously had eliminated, and more money to fight opioid abuse, which is politically popular. There still are cuts in Medicaid, potentially disastrous for millions of Americans. And insurance companies would be able to offer stripped-down coverage that ultimately could hurt those unable to afford more comprehensive care.
The maddening thing about the proposal is that it’s unnecessary. The Congress could have worked to improve the ACA, renamed it “New Trumpcare” or something, and ensured a better health care insurance system for all Americans. Instead, the party’s leaders were motivated by their instincts to first and foremost be seen as having dismantled the signature achievement of a twice-elected president they despised.
That made for bad legislation, and it will make for bad law if it somehow passes. Trump, of course, won’t know any of the details of the legislation, and doesn’t care as long as he’s seen as “winning” somehow. But Republicans are likely going to care in 2018, if they’re perceived by Americans in the mainstream – not just those in their base – as having hurt millions of people and put them in jeopardy of losing their health care.
McConnell should never have gone back to the drawing board. He and Trump should have left it in a closet, and moved on to other parts of Trump’s agenda, whatever it is.