In looking back on the failed attempt by Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare, one wonders whether any such legislation could have passed the House, not to mention the Senate. And that’s even before the two chambers would have to reconcile their differences and produce a final bill that could garner enough votes to pass into law.
While the hard-right House Freedom Caucus has been the target of most of the blame game in the immediate aftermath of this embarrassing failure, a critical mass of GOP moderates abandoned the bill as well. So, when a party can not satisfy either of its ideological wings, how can successful legislation be crafted? Maybe it just can’t.
It seems there simply was no way to reconcile those who wanted to tear down the system and build it from scratch with those who stipulate that after six years of Obamacare, health insurance has effectively become a right – no longer a commodity, but an entitlement, And thus, the moderates argued, its elimination would cause a conflagration among a critical mass of their constituents.
If you want to engage in your own blame game, perhaps you should look no further than Mitt Romney.
What, you say? What does a failed presidential candidate from five years ago have to do with the failure of a healthcare bill today? The answer is quite simple: if Romney had prevailed in the presidential election in 2012, Obamacare might well have been stopped dead in its tracks. But with the law now in place since 2010 providing coverage to more than 20 million previously uninsured – however deficient such coverage might be – it has become an entitlement trap.
Put simply, once an entitlement is cemented into law, it is almost impossible to eliminate, even if the blow is softened by the tax credits and other accommodations included in the now-defunct American Health Care Act.
It was said by supporters of this legislation that “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” that nobody can get everything they want, so this historic opportunity must be seized. The argument was that, even if the legislation is flawed, it is inarguably superior to Obamacare.
But what if the definition of a perfect bill is so radically different among conservatives on one side and moderates on the other? How can those differences be reconciled? It seems they can’t.
Then there is the matter of how Republicans who ran on repeal and replace for seven years could possibly be so unprepared to make it happen when they finally gained control of the White House along with the house and senate.
While the common notion is that all Republicans agreed for years on repealing and replacing Obamacare, the fact is that all they really agreed on was repeal. They never did forge a consensus on replace. And they were were never forced to come up with a replacement because they never had the power to replace. Until now. The fact is, while Republicans had five or six or a dozen different plans for replacing Obamacare, they never had one plan. And their divisions on replacement opened up to public view like a festering sore in the final days of debate.
It is also fair to say that congressional Republicans never believed Donald Trump would, or even could, win the presidential election. That was evident in the preponderance of their public statements and efforts to distance themselves from Trump during the campaign. So they never began to build consensus on a replacement until they were suddenly presented with a most unexpected presidency. By most accounts, Hillary Clinton’s people had many plans in place for their legislative agenda, but not Republicans, the great bulk of whom were convinced Trump would lose, and probably lose big.
So Obamacare remains in place for the foreseeable future, and its death spiral, a term previously dismissed by so many as simply political rhetoric, remains very real. It is entirely unsustainable, and the Democrats know it. But they will almost certainly do nothing to try and effect even modest changes in the law for fear of, God forbid, providing aid and comfort to the enemy, AKA the president.
So the question is no longer whether Obamacare will fail. It now becomes whether the American people will ultimately blame Democrats for creating the monster, or Republicans for failing in their promise to fix it.