Republicans pulled the American Health Care Act (AHCA) from a vote in the House of Representatives amid dwindling support from the G.O.P. and unified opposition by Democrats on March 24.
The failure of the health care bill represents a huge loss for House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump, each of whom vowed to repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) as soon as possible. For the foreseeable future, former President Barack Obama’s signature legislation that has provided health insurance to more than 20 million Americans will remain intact.
While Trump blamed Democrats for the AHCA’s failure, it’s clear that the Republican Party, despite holding majorities in both chambers of Congress and the presidency, is not as unified in their opposition to Obamacare as the public expected them to be in the aftermath of the 2016 election.
The Republican plan would have kept popular aspects of Obamacare, such as being able to stay on one’s parents’ insurance plan until age 26 and being able to buy insurance even if one has a pre-existing condition. It also would have eliminated unpopular parts of the law, including the individual and employer mandates that hurt small businesses and many individuals.
Additionally, the AHCA would have permitted buying insurance across state lines to create better competition and lower prices. However, it would have cut future funding for Medicaid, allowed insurers to charge older Americans up to five times as much as younger ones, and provided tax cuts for the rich while hurting the poor.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found that the AHCA would cause the number of uninsured citizens to rise to 24 million by 2026.
In February, Trump said that “nobody knew that health care could be so complicated” in reference to the Republican health care reform effort. However, Republicans should have expected difficulties throughout the process given the country’s recent history on the subject.
The Clinton administration tried to propose universal health care legislation, but the law was so long and complex that the bill could not gain enough support from Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress. To make matters worse for the party, Democrats lost both majorities in the 1994 midterm elections.
Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also struggled before passing in Congress. Moreover, Obamacare is still viewed negatively by the right on principle and the far left which feels the legislation did not go far enough.
Republicans complained about the problems with Obamacare for seven years. They should have recognized from their Democratic predecessors that passing such legislation is not as easy as rhetoric may suggest.
Ultimately, America does need something to replace Obamacare. Whether one opposes or favors the law, most people agree that the law is far from perfect. It aids many people but also hurts many others with taxes and high premiums.
Sometime in the near future, we will have to make a choice that will dictate the direction of health care policy: should health care be a guaranteed right for all Americans?
If the answer is no or uncertain, health care policy will continue its moderate course, providing some with insurance and denying others of quality care at the same time.
If the answer is yes, the government could move toward implementing the best possible policy to put America and Americans first—providing health insurance for all. Although such reforms would certainly be controversial and difficult to draw up, if they could make America safer and healthier than it has ever been, it is worth a shot.