Since his inauguration, President Donald Trump and members of Congress have been engaged in congressional negotiations regarding the Affordable Care Act. Repeal and replacement of “Obamacare,” as it is often called, was an issue of intense debate on the campaign trail; it’s still controversial today.
For the past eight months since the Trump Administration has been in office, numerous attempts have been made to eliminate Obamacare. All have failed. House and Senate leaders are now concerned that healthcare reform, and the accessibility of health insurance to thousands of Americans, has become a partisan issue.
Healthcare: A Partisan Issue
When Obamacare was introduced in 2010, it was meant to be a solution for Americans who could not afford health insurance. Prior to the introduction of the bill, approximately 15% of Americans did not have health insurance. To purchase a plan out of pocket was not feasible for those on a low income, and most employers were not required to offer insurance plans to employees.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) opened state-run marketplaces, consolidating private plans and expanding government-funded health coverage like Medicaid and Medicare. Unfortunately, Obamacare was quickly implemented and didn’t provide health insurance to as many Americans as expected. Many simply opted to forgo insurance and pay the tax penalty.
As a result, Republican House members took symbolic votes during the Obama presidency to repeal the ACA. Upon taking office, the Trump Administration immediately began to take steps to dismantle the law. However, each of these attempts floundered: the votes were cleanly cast along party lines.
Graham-Cassidy Healthcare Bill
The most recent revision to the Affordable Care Act is the Graham-Cassidy bill. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana are largely responsible for the bill. Under the law proposed by this bill, states would cut back on Medicaid and Medicare spending and also decrease Federal spending. The plan would also decrease protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Assuming that the Democrats continue to oppose the bill, Republicans will need to retain the support of every Republican but two. There are currently at least three Republicans who do not support the bill: Sens. John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski. It is likely that the bill will not pass.
Opposition to the Graham-Cassidy Bill
The Graham-Cassidy bill will likely not pass with enough support before the September 30 deadline. Various reasons have been cited by Republican leaders who oppose the bill. Senator John McCain of Arizona is one of the Republicans who does not support the Graham-Cassidy bill. He is quoted as saying, “We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009. If we do so, our success could be as short-lived as theirs when the political winds shift, as they regularly do.”
In addition to decreased protections for individuals, the Graham-Cassidy bill has been criticized by Medicare lawyers as unconstitutional. New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has threatened to sue the Federal government if the ACA is repealed. The Trump Administration’s plan to replace Obamacare shifts a great financial burden to the state level.
It is unclear as to whether the Republican leaders will garner the support needed to pass the repeal of the ACA. However, it would seem likely that 2017 may pass without success for the Republican congressional members who aim to see the Affordable Care Act replaced.