The stakes have been raised in the fight to stop Republicans from stripping millions of people of their health insurance. Donald Trump announced that he was pushing Republicans in Congress to begin dismantling the law that saw the uninsured rate drop by double digits – and he wanted it gone as soon as possible.
“Probably some time next week,” he instructed his sympathizers in Congress, many of whom are desperate to show they are satisfactorily loyal to ill-tempted Trump. He also insisted that the “replace will be very quickly or simultaneously very shortly thereafter.”
It won’t be.
The fact of the matter is, of course, that the Republicans, despite having spent the past eight years endlessly voting to repeal Obamacare, failed to come up with a plan to replace it. They are currently running around like chickens with their heads cut off, frantic to realize that they politically need to repeal ACA but recognize that it will be career suicide when they do.
It’s this sad state of affairs that led to Senate Republicans to lose control of their own repeal bill because even a few members of the “Oppose Obamacare At Every Turn” party recognized that they were going to detonate a bomb strapped to their own chests.
Something big is happening in the Senate right now: The Republican plan, affirmed again today by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is facing dire peril from Republican defections. Republicans need a House majority, 50 Senate votes, and soon-to-be President Trump to pass repeal and delay.
If Republicans lose three Senate votes, that drops them to 49, and repeal and delay cannot pass. At least three Republican senators (in addition to all the Democrats) now oppose repeal and delay. Rand Paul, of all people, has demanded that Congress repeal Obamacare at the same time it passes a plan to replace it.
Sadly, Trump is still living in the delusion that he can force a repeal regardless of the consequences. He’s also so completely oblivious to how this whole process works (he’s been skipping briefings to fight with the cast of SNL on Twitter, remember) that he’d rather just simply kill Obamacare without a follow-up plan than admit the idea was preposterous to begin with. Given that there is no feasible replacement at hand, if he gets his way, it will guarantee that millions of people who owe their healthcare to the Affordable Care Act will be left out in the cold.
The effects of this repeal are both massive in scale and intimate. An estimated 22 million people will vanish from insurance rolls. And individuals – friends, family, loved ones – will die.
It’s difficult to put that reality into words, but Richard Kirsch tried to do just that when he wrote:
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 22 million Americans will lose health coverage if a repeal plan like that passed in 2015 by the Congress were to become law. We know from Massachusetts that for every 830 people who get coverage, one life will be saved.
That would mean more than 26,500 Americans would die each year because they didn’t get lifesaving medical care.
I’ve met these people, like the young man who told me that he found out in the nick of time that he had stage-four cancer, and was saved by his new ObamaCare coverage. I met the relatives of people who died before the Affordable Care Act (or ACA, the official name of ObamaCare) was passed because they couldn’t get the care they needed.
And for what exactly?
So that Republicans and Donald Trump can save face. They used the demonization of the ACA as a blunt instrument to “prove” to rabid conservative voters how anti-Obama they were. Now they actually have the opportunity to act on those lies and feel like they have to go through with it. The consequences of that political cowardice will be devastating. And what makes this so surreal is that seeing them squirm as they reluctantly march towards repeal only demonstrates that they know it.
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