When I lived in the Tampa Bay area on of my great pleasures was listening to the late Chris Thomas’ sports radio show on WDAE. Thomas often used an expression which I have stolen, “One or the other but not both.” That exactly sums up the situation much of the public and the Republicans find themselves in with Obamacare. Let’s explore.
The right wing hates Obamacare, but they love many of its components. In an effort to gain voters the Republicans have championed their cause. Like most I have lost track but I think that House Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare over 60 times to date. One of Donald Trump’s campaign promises was to repeal Obamacare. Well in January the GOP will control both chambers of Congress and the White House. It is basically put up or shut up time for them. They can’t blame the Democrats for failing to deliver on one of their biggest promises of the last few years.
Theoretically the Democrats can stop the legislation in the Senate via the filibuster. The problem with relying on the Democrats to save them from the dilemma they have brought upon themselves is that Obamacare can be repealed via the filibuster evading process known as reconciliation and every follower of Congress knows that.
Most Americans, very much including the Republican base, like many features contained in Obamacare. A few of the most popular examples are that insurance carriers can no longer refuse to cover you due to a pre-existing condition, your children can stay on your plan to age 26 and insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime cap on what they will pay. Almost to a person even Obamacare’s most vocal critics love those provisions. The least liked provision in Obamacare is the mandate requiring almost everyone to have health insurance.
Republicans have long talked about repealing and replacing Obamacare with something much cheaper and better. The problem is that despite their rhetoric they haven’t put forth a plan that is better and less expensive.
Over its brief history the Obamacare provisions outlined above have become extremely popular to the point that Republicans are now promising to include them in any replacement plan. The economic challenge is that insurance carriers cannot offer affordable health care plans that include those provision without the additional healthy customers the mandate brings in. Without the mandate insurers will either have to not offer those provisions or charge unaffordable rates to those who do sign up. To paraphrase Thomas you can either have the benefits or not be required to participate but not both.
Oh, by the way there is a significant racial factor to the opposition to Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act is 9% more popular with the American public than Obamacare. One little thing about that statistic: the Affordable Care Act is simply the formal name for Obamacare.
It will be interesting to see Trump and the GOP wiggle out of this one. My fear is that they will repeal Obamacare and leave us with nothing. We’ll be watching.
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