If President Trump could be put under a truth serum – assuming there was one strong enough for the man often undeterred by facts – he’d be likely tell Republicans on Capitol Hill to just let their plans to replace the Affordable Care Act slide. So far, the GOP “replacement” would, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, leave 23 million more people uninsured in less than 10 years. Republicans even backed off of Trump’s absolute pledge that pre-existing conditions would be covered; Republicans seem to hedge on that.
Oh, Candidate Trump made a “repeal” of Obamacare a big item in his stump speeches, cheered lustily by crowds that doubtlessly included people who’d benefited from President Obama’s signature achievement. The point really was about attacking Obama personally, the nation’s first black president, who had brought the nation out of the Great Recession, calmed foreign leaders and delivered to his political foes the cruelest blow of all – winning two elections.
But Trump was the master of hate speech, and it worked.
He quickly found out, however, that doing away with Obamacare without hurting millions of people was ... impossible. And so he seemed to give it up. But now, congressional Republicans are bringing the issue back – or trying to. The House passed a ridiculous and inadequate plan that would leave many millions of Americans at risk, probably because Speaker Paul Ryan – a guy who’s also no fan of Medicare and Social Security, by the way – just wanted to get it out of the House and leave it in the lap of the Senate.
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Now, though GOP Senate leaders are personally perfectly willing for millions to go without health insurance, they’re facing the political reality that if they kick 23 million people out of insurance, and push a replacement that guts other parts of the Affordable Care Act, they’ll be labeled as sponsors of “Trumpcare,” which is going to be seen as a cruel blow to millions and millions of families. Yes, if they scuttle a plan that’s grown more popular as the years have gone by and as 23 million people have gotten coverage, they’ll no longer have “Obamacare” to stir up their hard-right base.
They’ll have “Trumpcare,” an inadequate plan that Democrats will use to pummel them and might perhaps ride to overturning Republican congressional majorities in the 2018 elections.
There’s the rub for Trump, who’d like to win but has no idea of the consequences if he no longer has Republicans in charge of the Senate and House. He’d wear the prints off his tweeting fingertips.
It’s quite true that the ACA needs tweaking: guaranteeing competition among insurers, refining the requirement that all people buy insurance, expanding Medicaid. Working on improving the program would give Republicans something for which they could be proud to take credit. Otherwise, they’re going to be stuck defending a Trumpcare plan that will be far more unpopular than they believe Obamacare is.