A Three-Step Plan to Save the Effort to Repeal and Replace Obamacare
Conservatives in the House of Representatives are reportedly concerned that the Obamacare repeal and replace effort has bogged down and been sidetracked, and they want to jumpstart the effort by pushing through a repeal bill immediately.
Good. Their fears are well-founded.
Some Republicans have responded to criticisms that they are moving too slowly by pointing out that repealing and replacing Obamacare is a big job and they want to do it right. Which is true and would be a compelling defense except that:
They set their own deadline for draft legislation for January 27, which seemed very optimistic, but missed it, claiming it would be ready in February—which they will apparently also miss.
They had seven years to come up with a repeal strategy and replace legislation but didn’t.
In order to get back on track—and restore confidence in the millions of people who voted for them based on their multiple repeal-and-replace promises—Republicans need to take the following three steps:
- Return to their repeal legislation that passed the House and Senate through the reconciliation process, though President Obama vetoed it last year. Tweak that bill if necessary to include as many of the Obamacare insurance mandates as possible, even though Democrats will challenge some of those efforts as non-germaine under the Byrd Rule. Leave in place enough funding to ensure that Obamacare subsidies and the Medicaid expansion can continue through next year so that current enrollees won’t have to worry that their coverage will change immediately.
- Now that Dr. Tom Price has been confirmed as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, he should use the power and latitude granted him under President Trump’s executive order to defer collecting any penalties for being uninsured, and allow people to purchase any health insurance policy that has been approved by their state insurance commissioner, regardless of whether it’s Obamacare qualified.
- Speaker Paul Ryan should take Price’s bill Empowering Patients First Act of 2015, make any changes necessary to make it compatible with his own Better Way outline, and begin the process of hearings with the goal of passing it by the end of March, either through regular order or reconciliation.
Republicans should remember that when President Bill Clinton entered the White House, he set up a health care reform committee run by Hillary. That committee took six months to come up with Clintoncare legislation. By taking so long, Democrats lost their momentum and Clinton’s effort to take over the health care system failed.
If Republicans dither, they will also lose momentum and their effort to repeal the government takeover of the health care system will likewise fail.