Update: three Republican Senators have now announced that they will oppose the repeal of Obamacare without a replacement. This effectively dooms GOP plans to repeal the healthcare law.
We have some good news and some bad news. First, the good news.
The Republican’s replacement to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – better known as “Obamacare” – will not be put to a vote in the Senate.
It required a majority of the Senate to voice their support for it, but in the last few days, despite revisions and attempts to please both moderates and conservatives, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell effectively announced that the Better Care and Reconciliation Act (BCRA) has been scrapped.
“Regretfully, it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,” McConnell said, as reported by The Hill.
At present, there are 52 Republican Senators, which means that in order for the BCRA to pass, McConnell couldn’t afford to lose more than two on his side of the aisle. In the event of a tie, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote.
There has always been dissent among Republican Senators who either see the bill as too harsh or, conversely, too similar to Obamacare. As of last night, there are at least four GOP Senators opposed to the bill, and with time running out to cast a vote, McConnell decided to bury it.
This is great news on the face of it. The BCRA was widely panned by vast swaths of the American public, the nation’s top medical collectives, academics, researchers, and even health insurers. The bill was less popular than Vladimir Putin or the Vietnam War.
It would have stripped healthcare away from more than 23 million Americans, brought back judgment based on ludicrous pre-existing conditions like “pregnancy” and “victim of domestic violence”, and rob the poorest, oldest, youngest, and sickest members of society of sexual, mental, and substance abuse-related healthcare.
The bill would have led to the deaths of around 220,000 Americans by 2026. It’s good that it’s been buried, but sadly that’s not the end of the story: the GOP is planning to eliminate the ACA regardless.
After being cajoled repeatedly by the President himself, McConnell has said that for now, the Senate Republicans will simply try to repeal Obamacare without a replacement, which they’ll begin planning again in 2018. This is essentially their nuclear option, and they’re planning to vote on it in “the coming days.”
Admittedly, there will be a two-year delay until the repeal takes place – if the vote is successful, that is – but this is a very dangerous game to play. Without a replacement ready, the costs of repealing the ACA are dire.
According to an independent analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), this action would lead to 32 million people losing health coverage by 2026. This includes 19 million who would also lose Medicaid coverage, a social healthcare program designed to support those on very low incomes.
The CBO also pointed out that the cost of healthcare for many ordinary Americans would rise significantly, by as much as 50 percent in the year following the repeal.
One of the genuine problems with the ACA is that the cost of healthcare for the middle-class demographics has risen considerably since it was enacted back in 2010, and Republicans have made this a central tenet of their argument against the law. Simply repealing Obamacare won’t help – it will make things worse.
There have been some calls in recent days on both sides of the aisle to work together on improving the healthcare system. These calls have gone unheeded, and the Republicans appear to be far more interested in scoring political points instead – at a terrible cost to the poorest of Americans.