The problems created by ObamaCare will outlast the latest effort to repeal the bill. The GOP has not yet fulfilled its oft-repeated promise to repeal ObamaCare, and pundits are busy declaring that the GOP has failed for good. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Over the last month, Washington has focused on a Sept. 30 deadline for Senate Republicans to make use of the current budget reconciliation process. This understanding is based on guidance from the Senate parliamentarian indicating that the privilege associated with a reconciliation vehicle for a given fiscal year expires at the end of that fiscal year. This means that after Sept. 30, Republicans would need to pass a new budget resolution if they wanted to pass ObamaCare repeal on reconciliation.
The American people understand that Republicans have the power to keep their promises (they’re in the majority, after all), and they haven’t yet. That there was a missed deadline, and that the rules of the reconciliation process are strict, has no effect on the weight of the promise to repeal ObamaCare and the expectation that it will get done. In other words, Americans hoping to see ObamaCare repealed won’t give up because of the turning of the calendar.
The fundamentals of the health care debate haven’t changed. ObamaCare is collapsing. The cost of insurance, especially premiums paid by individuals, are through the roof. Additionally, health insurance choices are lower than ever, and in fact, nonexistent in some jurisdictions. As a strict policy matter, Americans need relief from these soaring prices caused by ObamaCare, and insurance companies need relief from the mountains of ObamaCare regulations in order to be able to provide that relief.
In the coming months and years, Americans purchasing health insurance on the individual marketed will face a worsening situation. If they’re able to purchase health insurance, they’ll have little choice as to their plan, and it will be expensive. This marketplace, created by ObamaCare, is collapsing. Some in Washington are calling for a bailout of the insurance companies to try to avoid this calamity. However, insurance companies are not in need of a bailout. On the contrary, they are enjoying fat profits. What’s driving costs up, and driving choice down, is the regulatory scheme enacted under ObamaCare. Only regulatory relief will fix this problem.
Additionally, as a political matter, a huge slush fund of money to prop up ObamaCare will be an abject disaster. If a bailout takes the place of the repeal that voters have been promised for seven years, the disappoint will mount, and the swamp’s reputation will be solidified. Instead of giving up, or bailing out insurance companies, Republican leaders must keep trying. The fiscal 2018 budget reconciliation process is reserved for tax reform, but there are other avenues that can be pursued, such as the fiscal 2019 reconciliation process.
Now that the spotlight is off, senators must work even harder to forge a consensus. And when they have assembled a plan that can pass the Senate, they should move on it immediately and fulfill their promise. Meanwhile, the Trump administration should do everything in its power to limit the effect of ObamaCare and reduce its impact. This includes granting state waiver requests and reducing the regulatory burden.
Thomas Binion is director of congressional and executive branch relations at The Heritage Foundation, where he is responsible for programs on Capitol Hill and engagement with the administration.