A recipe for disaster?
Most people agree that Obamacare needs some tweaks. It’s not necessarily a partisan issue, either. There are plenty of Democratic lawmakers ready and willing to work with Republicans to improve the law or replace it with something better.
But the mood on Capitol Hill seems to be one of blood-thirsty action. With majorities in both chambers of Congress, Republicans seem bent on driving a stake through Obamacare at the outset of the new session just because they can. Since President Obama ramrodded his signature bill through Congress, turnabout, it seems, is fair play.
Except for the 30 million Americans whose access to health care hangs in the balance.
Here in Colorado, the Colorado Health Policy Coalition is asking members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to pump the brakes on repealing the law without a clear and comprehensive alternative in place.
The coalition, representing much of the health industry and many other businesses and organizations with a stake in health-care reform, is worried that a repeal without a carefully thought-out substitute could be disastrous.
We agree. Some form of repeal and delay seems a better course of action for several reasons. If Republicans want to repeal, fine. Just build in a two- or three-year period before the law is extinguished, providing market stability and time for thoughtful — and hopefully, bipartisan — solutions to emerge.
But that’s not the hand Senate Republicans are showing. To avoid a Democratic filibuster, they’re instructing congressional committees to draft a budget reconciliation bill to effectively repeal the tax and spending provisions of the Affordable Care Act, crippling the financial framework of the law.
A repeal of the individual mandate to purchase health insurance would eliminate the subsidy mechanism to help people buy policies. State health care exchanges would go into a death spiral, leaving millions uninsured.
Is that really what people voted for? Will Americans who voted for Trump and lose their insurance accept that this is part of the bargain to make America great again?
Congressional Republicans, on the whole, may be deaf to dire warnings about an immediate repeal. But Colorado lawmakers shouldn’t be. The coalition has laid out clear principles on both the process Congress should follow to bring about necessary changes and the policy they should ultimately adopt.
Using a budgetary maneuver to change national policy eliminates the opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together. Moving forward in piecemeal fashion with no plan in place for the future of the nation’s healthcare system feels more like a political stunt than responsible governance.
There’s a better way. Even the president-elect himself thinks parts of Obamacare are worth keeping. That should be the launching point for an open debate about how to make health care affordable and accessible for all Americans.
If coalition members Progress Now Colorado and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce can find common on this issue, why can’t Congress?