The U.S. Senate may vote, or not, to repeal the Affordable Care Act by the end of the week, but whatever happens one thing is certain — this is not how good public policy is created.
Repealing and replacing Obamacare has been a staple promise for the majority of Republicans in Congress, and for President Trump. They’ve been reiterating the promise for more than six years.
You’d think in all that time someone in the GOP brain trust would have come up with a reasonable replacement for the ACA, which even former President Obama admits has serious shortcomings.
But after all those years and all those promises, Republicans have nothing. Their several attempts at repeal and replace in recent years have failed primarily because of a lack of a viable replacement. In fact, most reliable experts say the various plans suggested have far more damaging potential than the existing health-care law.
And still, GOP leaders keep pounding away, the latest effort being the Cassidy/Graham bill, which Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell insists will be voted on by the end of this week.
Maybe. At least three senators have said they’ll vote against the proposal, and several others have expressed deep reservations, which could leave the legislation short of the votes needed for approval.
The reason for the big rush is fairly obvious — after Sept. 30, this coming Saturday, the Senate rules change, and the bill’s passage would require 60 votes, a number the GOP majority has no hopes of achieving.
The reluctant Republican senators may have different reasons for opposing the Cassidy/Graham measure, but it could be that most of the states they represent would lose federal health-care funds if it passes and is signed into law.
The skeptics may also have read a report from the nonpartisan Brookings Institution showing that passage of Cassidy/Graham would reduce the number of Americans with health-care insurance coverage by more than 20 million in less than a decade, and another 11 million or so in the years after that.
The ACA law went into effect three years ago, and since has drawn more than 20 million Americans into the program. Not all are happy with the costs, and they’ve said as much. But they’ve also said they want to keep Obamacare, a belief shared by more than 60 percent of Americans surveyed.
Perhaps that is another reason those reluctant Republican senators are standing up to a full-court press by the Trump administration to repeal and replace the ACA. They can see that voting for a flawed bill to replace a flawed-but-operative law carries implied and inherent political risks.
Or, it could be that the holdouts can’t see the value in potentially harming tens of millions of Americans with a punitive law whose only virtue seems to be that it appeases a certain political ideology, and allows a few politicians to keep campaign promises.
The Brookings research indicates that the Cassidy/Graham proposal, if it becomes law, will leave more Americans uninsured after 2026 than there were before the Affordable Care Act legislation was introduced.
And, the naysaying GOP senators may be listening to the chorus of doctors, health-insurance executives and citizens who are telling Washington that repealing and replacing Obamacare is a really bad idea, as long as there is no viable replacement, which there isn’t.
Arizona Sen. John McCain is among the GOP holdouts, and he offers the best proposal we’ve heard thus far — why don’t Republicans and Democrats get together, and fix the health-care mess.