With Republicans making Obamacare repeal their first order of business, queasiness has already set in among congressional leaders and the President-elect.
“Even people who voted for [repeal] before are [saying], ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute, we knew that wasn’t going to happen. There were no consequences,” one nervous anonymous Senator told Bloomberg.
Sen. John McCain told CNN he wants a slow process because, “always worried about something that took a long time in the making and we’ve got to concentrate our efforts to making sure that we do it right so that nobody’s left out.”
Sen. Rand Paul expressed his worry in an oped that the likely Republican plan of “partial repeal” – keeping the more popular elements like banning discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, but junking the cost controls – would be disastrous: “partial repeal will only accelerate the current chaos and may eventually lead to calls for a taxpayer bailout of insurance companies … If you repeal this mandate but leave in place dictates as to whom may purchase insurance, you create a business model doomed to fail.”
Even Donald Trump is getting the willies, tweeting today: “Republicans must be careful in that the Dems own the failed ObamaCare disaster … massive increases of ObamaCare will take place this year and Dems are to blame for the mess. It will fall of its own weight – be careful!”
I would say that Trump’s tweet shows that he understands once Republicans begin the repeal process, everything that follows will be correctly deemed a consequence of Republican action. But Vice President-elect Mike Pence told House Republicans today that Trump is reading executive orders to begin a “smooth transition” out of Obamacare for as early as his first day in office.
The box Republicans are in is part of the political genius of Obamacare. While it falls short of the single-payer dream and lacks public health plan options, by enacting a law that requires nearly every American to be coverage, whatever its imperfections, seals in stone the principle that it is a public responsibility – and therefore, a federal government responsibility – to manage our health care system. If something isn’t working right, we can’t and won’t throw our hands up and say the market will take care of it. We will turn to our government to take action.
That’s why Republicans won’t follow Sen. Paul’s advice – “Perhaps we should try freedom” – because an unregulated market creates losers, and losers are not acceptable when it comes to health care.
Republicans own the government, and so, they own Obamacare. That’s what Obama intended and that’s why Obamacare will never be truly repealed.