Since the day the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” became law, the Republican Party has been vowing to repeal it. That effort, always an unlikely, uphill battle, has run aground over the past few weeks. Why? The answer is quite simple. While many people do not like the former president’s signature healthcare law, they like many of the things that it accomplished. Obamacare is a mixed bag, there is good and bad. It is high time that both parties in Congress work together to fix the problems.
Instead, the Republicans would rather pretend that what existed of the American healthcare system before 2010 was wonderful. It was not. This is why the current idea to repeal without replacing is doomed to failure. In short, the base of the Republican Party hates Obamacare because of what it is called, and some of the regulations it brings, but they love many of the new benefits that came with it.
Between something like 60 failed attempts to repeal the law while President Barack Obama was in office, and several failed attempts to do so since President Donald Trump took office, the Republican leadership has been unable to bring about change to the healthcare system. Why? Because while there is a unified vision of what the current party in power does not like (Obamacare), there is no unified vision of what should replace it.
Now, don’t get us wrong; there are plenty of issues that need to be fixed. Plenty of Democrats feel this way as well, way back to 2010 when the law was enacted. Back in January, Obama said he would publicly support GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare — and encourage Democrats to support it — if their plan is better. But Republican plans have not been better.
For seven years, Republicans have railed against the current law and the president who pushed it through, instead of spending time seriously devising an alternative that would work. GOP leaders instead whined and complained and shook their fists in the air. And in the past six months, since taking full control of the federal government, they have developed replacement plans in secret, without reaching across the political aisle, and alienating their own base while doing so.
While the party was able to freely assail the law when Obama occupied the White House, the GOP has been unable to devise a workable plan that keeps both moderate Republicans and conservatives on board. Is it any surprise that three of the GOP senators who helped prevent the Senate’s latest version from achieving a vote were Susan Collins, Shelley Moore Capito and Lisa Murkowski? It’s notable that these three women, who have been vocal in their positions on healthcare policy, were all left out of the Senate’s initial working group to draft the latest repeal-and-replace bill — a group of 13 men.
“I did not come to Washington to hurt people,” said Capito, who represents a poorer, largely rural state that benefited a great deal from the protections and guarantees put in place through Obamacare. “I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”
So now what? After the latest crash and burn, conservative commentator Laura Ingraham said Republicans must admit they need to work with Democrats in order to pass legislation on healthcare or “do nothing.” The president seemingly decided to focus on the latter part of her position. Mr. Trump has declared his plan is now to “let Obamacare fail,” suggesting Democrats would then seek out Republicans to work together on a bill to bury the Affordable Care Act.
If he is determined to make good on that pledge, he has some options at his disposal, from declining to reimburse insurance companies for reducing low-income customers’ out-of-pocket costs to failing to enforce the mandate that most Americans have health coverage. But even that will not cause the existing system to fail across the board, just in some areas. Larger states, and states where Democrats are working to protect the system, will be shielded from the worst of any Obamacare collapse.
Of course, purposely causing pain, frustration and financial peril to millions of Americans to prove a political point is never a good way forward. Rather, there is plenty of common ground that would improve the flaws with the existing law. We hope Democrats and Republicans can come together and finally clean up the American healthcare system. Americans deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and having available, viable healthcare options achieves all three of these goals.