CHICAGO – Just two days into the new Congressional session, Republicans in the Senate took the first step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act (ObamacCare) and handing control of the U.S. healthcare system back to private insurance companies and huge pharmaceutical conglomerates.
But in the face of protest rallies around the country and the promise of more to some, some Republican leaders have had second thoughts about repealing the plan without first coming up with an alternative they could try to foist on the nation.
January 4, the Senate voted 51-48 to review the budget resolution that would fast-track a repeal bill. This process would prevent Democrats from trying to block repeal through a filibuster. Then, according to the Business Insider online newsletter, they ran headlong into reality.
First there were the protests. Then the Kaiser Foundation released a poll showing that only 26 percent of the public want ObamaCare repealed.
“Now [Republicans] can repeal at will [but they] are realizing that 30 million people, half of them [white working class], will lose coverage, and they’re terrified of the political fallout,” the Business Insider quoted Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman as saying.
He continued, “[Republicans are] caught by a trap of their own devising.” Their billionaire backers “will punish them if they don’t repeal. But white working-class voters convinced themselves that that nice man Trump wouldn’t possibly take away their coverage.”
The Kaiser poll shows that 85 percent of the public, including 82 percent of Republicans, support the ObamaCare provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26. Eighty percent of the public, including 67 percent of Republicans, support the continuance of financial help to low- and moderate-income Americans who don’t get insurance through their jobs.
Furthermore, 80 percent of the public including 67 percent of Republicans like the fact that through ObamaCare states have the option of expanding their existing Medicaid programs to cover more uninsured low-income adults. And 69 percent of the public, including 63 percent of Republicans, are for preventing companies from denying insurance because of pre-existing conditions.
As a result of facing realities such as public support for ObamaCare, Republican Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee, Rob Portman of Ohio, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska submitted an amendment to the Senate’s repeal bill that would extend the deadline for the committees to craft a repeal bill from its current January 27 deadline to March 3.
Many Republicans acknowledge that crafting a substitute for ObamaCare might take longer than that.
According to the Business Insider, “Top Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, along with incoming chief of staff Reince Priebus and Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin all met with House Speaker Paul Ryan … . At the conclusion of the meeting, Bannon told reporters the group was ‘still thinking that through’ in regard to the Obamacare repeal and replacement.
“Simultaneously,” the Business Insider continues, Sen. Rand Paul has been gathering support over the past week to delay any repeal of Obamacare until the GOP has a full replacement bill ready to go,” no matter how long it takes.
In a bipartisan report released December, 2016, The Urban Institute detailed the implications of a ‘partial repeal’ of the Affordable Care Act through reconciliation. The grim analysis indicated that “22.5 million people would lose coverage directly due to repeal of the law’s subsidies, Medicaid expansion, and its individual requirement to carry health insurance.”
Furthermore it was predicted that by 2019 the number of uninsured people would rise from 28.9 million to 58.7 million, in an increase of 29.8 million people (103 percent). This would have a drastic impact on working class and low income families, who have greatly banked on Trump to challenge the big government policies that have left so many in the dust. The Urban Institute reported that a whopping 82 percent of the people becoming uninsured under the repeal would be in working families.
In addition, the report explicitly made note of the fact that any action to retract the Affordable Healthcare Act would not situate the country to pre-ACA rates, but rather leave Americans with higher rates than before the ACA’s reforms. Not only would the premiums worsen, but the burden would be redistributed back to the working and middle class by leaving the federal government to raise new taxes, substantially cut spending, or increase the deficit in order to cover the damage of the cost.
Republicans continue to insist that dismantling Obamacare is the only option, yet they must still answer to the 20 million Americans that have gained insurance under the Affordable Healthcare Act. Democrats are trying to rally the public to fight against the repeal, with pressure mounting as the clock runs out before Trump’s inauguration. For many it is a literal matter of life and death, as they await, in political limbo, the final decisions on the future of their family’s health and wellbeing.