Thursday, June 8, 2017

The GOP race to advance repeal-and-replace of Obamacare by July 4th, 2017

If you thought the Republican plan to repeal-and-replace Obamacare was dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate, think again. The House of Representatives passed an extremely harsh and unpopular bill last May that has been heavily criticized. Nevertheless, Senate plans to usher through healthcare reform are underway.

According to Politico, “McConnell whips Senate GOP back in line in Obamacare repeal” by Burgess Everett, Jennifer Haberkorn, and Adam Cancryn, 6/6/2017, Republicans have emerged from meetings this week with increasing optimism that they can pass a bill by the end of June, before the July 4th recess. If and when it is voted on, you may not know what is in it and there will be no public hearings on the bill. There is no legislation written yet for you to look at, but McConnell (R-KY) says that “failure is not an option”. 

Or as Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) puts it,

“We’re in the back seat with Thelma and Louise and we need to get out of the car. So details matter, but we need to get out of the car. That was the pre-eminent message…The upshot is: This has to happen.”

What will happen? No one can say exactly, but here is what might happen:

“Senate Republicans expect their bill to be more generous than the House-passed measure in almost every way: A longer runway for ending the Medicaid expansion, more money for insurance market stabilization to lower premiums and beefed up tax credits for Americans of lower income, senators said. But no decisions have been made on some key policy questions, including on handling Medicaid. Still, it’s almost impossible for the public to assess what precisely Republicans are working on — the GOP is writing the bill behind closed doors and with no committee hearings.” [emphasis added]

If a bill is passed, it will have to be done through Reconciliation. According to the Tax Policy Center, “Congressional budget committees use the reconciliation process to ensure tax laws and mandatory spending programs are revised according to the budget resolution’s revenue and spending targets. The reconciliation process is a way to fast-track revenue and spending legislation into becoming law.” For a fuller explanation, see this from the Tax Policy Center.

The bill will have to go through a number of steps described in the article, though none of them include hearings or sober consideration of a huge change to our health care system with multiple effects on our economy and health.

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