Republicans, Aiming to Kill Health Law, Also Work to Shore It Up
By Robert Pear
The New York Times, February 12, 2017
After denouncing the Affordable Care Act as an abomination for seven years, Republicans in Congress, working with the Trump administration, are urgently seeking ways to shore up health insurance marketplaces created by the law.
While President Trump said as a candidate that “Obamacare is certain to collapse of its own weight,” Republicans fear such an outcome because, now that the fate of the health law is in their hands, they could be blamed by consumers and Democrats.
The administration is poised to issue a proposed regulation to try to stabilize insurance markets, and House Republicans are drafting legislation with a similar purpose. The regulation and the bills are intended to hold down insurance premiums and to lure insurers back into the public marketplaces from which they have withdrawn in the past couple of years.
By Don McCanne, M.D.
There could not be better evidence that the Republicans never did have an effective plan to replace the Affordable Care Act than the fact that they are now advancing legislation to protect the private insurers in the ACA exchanges – reinforcing them rather than shutting them down.
So their strategy has changed from repeal and replace, and then to repeal and repair, and now simply to repair – repair that will protect the private insurers.
Many of the legislators are facing angry citizens at their town hall meetings who do not want to lose the health care benefits that they may have gained through ACA. That partially explains why they failed to deliver on their promise to “repeal Obamacare on day one.”
Many voters were supportive of repeal and replace, but the politicians and the voters had different objectives. The Republican politicians wanted to repeal the expansions of ACA and thereby reduce government spending on health care. Voters wanted changes (replacement) that would ensure that they could always receive health care that was affordable.
Considering this, it is understandable why the Republicans have not moved immediately forward with their replacement proposals. Reducing Medicaid funding through block grants would cause millions to lose their coverage. Switching Medicare to a voucher program would create greater financial burdens for Medicare beneficiaries. Changing market rules to promote bare-bones private plans is the Republican version of providing “access,” but that would make actual health care truly unaffordable for a majority of Americans with significant medical needs because the very high out-of-pocket expenses would be beyond the capabilities of most American family budgets.
The simmering anger is because ACA was inadequate for too many Americans, and it appears that the Republican “replace” proposals will leave millions worse off. The “replace” that people want is affordable health care, but not merely a continuation of the inadequate policies of the Affordable Care Act. What they really want, though some do not realize it, is an equitably funded, universal health insurance program – an improved Medicare for all. That would give all of us affordable access to health care, and not just access to nearly worthless private health plans.