President Donald Trump could have avoided the recent – and ongoing – healthcare debacle by striking a different tone on Obamacare while he was on the campaign trail. Clearly, he was on to a winner when he loudly proclaimed his intention to repeal his predecessor’s signature policy item. Equally evident, however, is the fact that he did not fully appreciate the complexity of undoing such a massive, complex and far-reaching piece of legislation, much less replacing it with something that congressional Republicans and the American people would find acceptable.
Despite obstinate denial on the part of democrats, Obamacare has utterly failed to deliver on its stated purpose, which was to provide more affordable healthcare to more Americans, at lower cost and without reducing choice of providers. Promising immediate repeal, however, was Trump’s mistake. One could attribute this mistake to the President being a political campaign rookie or, perhaps, to the fact that his advisors and allies lacked the courage to tell him that such a change would take time. Either way, the prioritizing of Obamacare repeal was campaign gold but a legislative quagmire.
Trump should have set voters up to expect a longer repeal and replacement process. Had he clearly explained that repeal was inevitable but cleaning up the mess could not possibly be completed within a couple months, he would not have felt the urgency to throw his support behind the Paul Ryan plan.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was an almost 2000-page bill. According to USA Today, this bill, in its entirety, came along with nearly 11,000 pages of regulations. To repeal such legislation – much less, replace it – could not possibly be achieved in such a short time-frame.
Having played down the idea that Obamacare could be quickly repealed would have given Trump and the Republicans in Congress breathing space to focus on two more urgent issues; national security (encompassing both immigration and the defeat of the Islamic State) and tax reform. These issues are, indeed, more pressing than healthcare, since the former is about keeping Americans safe and ending the bloodshed in Iraq and Syria and the latter ignites economic growth.
Even the casual observer of the current political climate knows that the Democrats in Congress are not going to cooperate on any bill that repeals or replaces and part of ACA. Whether they are doing so to protect Barack Obama’s ‘legacy’ or because they want a single-payer healthcare system – or, perhaps, for both these reasons – Democrats are going to oppose republican healthcare reform at every turn.
Trump set the bar too high and the Republican Party is now in disarray over healthcare. Other policy issues may now be further delayed as the party scrambles to come up with a viable solution before the 2018 mid-term elections. The Democratic Party has no clear message but republican failure on the healthcare issue may hand them one on a silver platter.