Congress is back in session today, and Republicans, emboldened by the election victory of Donald Trump and gains in both the House and Senate, are setting their sights on repealing Obamacare. Republican leaders are still undecided on a specific plan for a replacement.
On Donald Trump’s official website, the president-elect, who made repealing Obamacare a cornerstone of his campaign, describes the healthcare law as an “incredible economic burden.”
“This legislation, passed by totally partisan votes in the House and Senate and signed into law by the most divisive and partisan President in American history, has tragically but predictably resulted in runaway costs, websites that don’t work, greater rationing of care, higher premiums, less competition and fewer choices,” Trump’s website states.
Republicans have been trying to repeal Obamacare, officially called the Affordable Care Act, since it was signed into law by Barack Obama in March of 2010. Tom Price, a Republican representative from Georgia and Trump’s nominee for health and human services secretary, has been among the top Republicans involved in crafting a replacement for Obamacare.
According to NPR, Price authored an Obamacare repeal and replace plan called the Empowering Patients First Act, which was used as the basis for a health care proposal submitted in June of 2016 by GOP House speaker Paul Ryan. Price, an orthopedic surgeon before becoming a congressman, opposes the idea, which he sees as central to Obamacare, that the government should be in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship.
“They believe the government ought to be in control of health care,” Price said of Obamacare proponents. “We believe that patients and doctors should be in control of health care. People have coverage, but they don’t have care.”
There are five key elements to Tom Price’s plan for repealing Obamacare, according to NPR.
- Price wants to offer tax credits, starting at $1,200 and increasing with age, to help individuals purchase private health insurance. The credit will be the same for everyone and is not dependant on income.
- Price wants to expand health savings accounts to allow people to save pre-tax income to pay for health care costs.
- Price supports restrictions on insurers denying coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, but unlike with Obamacare, this will only apply if people were continuously insured for 18 months prior to selecting a new policy.
- Price wants to limit the amount companies can deduct from their taxes for providing health insurance to employees.
- Price’s plan would provide federal funds to states for the creation of high-risk pools for covering people with existing medical conditions who cannot afford health insurance.
According to CNN, over 20 million Americans are insured under Obamacare who would otherwise be uninsured without the law. Repealing Obamacare could have a major impact on what seniors pay for Medicare coverage, premiums paid to insurers by small businesses, and people covered under the Medicaid expansion provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Putting those things in jeopardy could be a major hurdle for Republicans desiring to repeal Obamacare with no specific plan for a comprehensive replacement.
Some Republicans are not as adamant as Donald Trump, Tom Price, and Paul Ryan about repealing Obamacare. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Susan Collins, a moderate Republican senator from Maine, would prefer her party focus on a detailed framework for a replacement of the Affordable Care Act before pushing for its repeal.
“In some ways, I feel we’re putting the cart before the horse. I don’t want people falling through the cracks and losing their insurance status because we didn’t have a replacement ready to go,” Collins said, noting that insurance markets “are complex and that they cannot turn on a dime.”
The Republicans will also have major pushback from Democrats intent on improving Obamacare rather than replacing it. According to Bloomberg, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer is among top Democrats ready to fight Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare.
“Bring it on,” Schumer said. “They don’t know what to do. They’re like the dog that caught the bus.”
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders seems ready to be a major voice in the fight to stop Republicans from what he sees as an attempt to reduce access to health insurance coverage for Americans. The independent from Vermont campaigned to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016 on a platform of providing Medicare for all Americans under a single payer plan.
Repealing Obamacare will not be easy for Republicans, and given the complexity of our nation’s health care, finding a replacement could prove to be even more difficult.
[Featured Image by Zach Gibson/Getty Images]