When It Comes to Replacing Obamacare, Republicans Have Got Nothing – Which Is Not Surprising Since the ACA Is Based on the Conservatives’ Own Plan

Rep. Phil Gingrey, a physician, promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), a physician, promising to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act
As Republicans in the House prepared to vote for the 33rd vote — we said it was only the 31st vote earlier and apologize for the error — the Los Angeles Times interviewed leading lights in the congressional GOP and have confirmed the obvious.The Republicans’ campaign promise in 2010 to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act was bogus. They don’t have the votes in the Senate to repeal it — and the president would veto it, even if they did — and when it comes to replacing Obamacare, they simply do not have a plan.

That fact becomes clear when you read the laughable excuse-making in these quotes from Republicans in Congress:

  • House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-San Dimas): “There might be a chance for us to do this next year.” But what does he care. Dreier is retiring because his district has become predominantly Democratic.
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah:”Conservatives cannot allow themselves to be browbeaten for failing to provide the same coverage numbers as Obamacare.” Because universal coverage is, you know, a socialist idea — never mind that our major competitors and trading partners provide universal coverage for their citizens.
  • House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), who is a physician: “I’m perplexed by this obsession with the replace part when the repeal hasn’t occurred.” It’s the Democrats’ fault that we don’t have a replacement plan!!
  • Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), another physician: “I just don’t think government does big things well.” So business is perfect? If so, then why is it that the current crisis is a direct result of the giant insurance companies’ business decisions not to cover everyone — these private companies could provide universal coverage and end the crisis tomorrow if they wanted to, simply by making premiums affordable to everyone.

In June 2011, six months after Republicans took control of the House, they were still promising voters they would come up with a “conservative” replacement plan:

“Repeal is the first, not the last step,” five House GOP committee chairmen said in a USA Today op-ed on June 20, 2011, the day of their first repeal vote. “Compassionate, innovative and job-creating healthcare reform is what’s next.”

That same day, the House passed a resolution instructing the chairmen to develop legislation that accomplished 12 goals, including “lower healthcare premiums,” “preserve a patients’ ability to keep his or her health plan,” “provide people with preexisting medical conditions access to affordable health coverage” and “increase the number of insured Americans.”

But that was then. Now, as they vote for the 33rd time to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it’s plainly obvious to everyone (except Fox viewers and their ilk, it should go without saying) that the Heritage mandate was the conservative alternative to providing universal coverage. That’s it. That’s all they’ve got.

The ACA is based on the same core principles as the universal-coverage plan Mitt Romney introduced while he was the “severely conservative” (as he put it) governor of Massachusetts — and, like Obamacare, Romneycare relies on the individual mandate, which is the conservative, pro-business approach — a plan that was developed by the Heritage Foundation, a think tank so right-wing it is a sponsor of Rush Limbaugh’s show. (Heritage reportedly scrubbed its role as the inventor of the mandate from its website.)

In short, Republicans have put themselves into a box of their own making. During the debate over insurance reform in 2009 and 2010, they decided to run against their own the plan — the Heritage mandate — by convincing their voters that the mandate, which will deliver up to 50 million new paying customers to the giant, for-profit insurance corporations, was some sort of socialist authoritarian scheme.

But, as Peter Coy reported in BusinessWeek earlier this week, there is really nothing new or unusual about mandates:

States require drivers to carry liability insurance. Your state government also provides you with—and charges you for—insurance against losing your job. The federal government mandates flood insurance for anyone living in a flood plain who has a federally insured mortgage. Social Security is mandatory insurance against a penniless old age, and the premiums are deducted from your paycheck, whether you like it or not…

The logic of getting everyone to jump into the risk pool is powerful: Left to their own devices, many people will choose to go uncovered against fire, flood, car crashes, and cancer. Then, if something bad happens, they throw themselves on the mercy of society. The cruel solution would be to let them live (or die) on the streets. To our societal credit, we are unwilling to do this. A coverage mandate at least ensures that people who create the risks will bear the costs, on average, over time…

Until now, if the federal government wanted to guarantee coverage it paid for it by levying taxes, as in Social Security. The Affordable Care Act offers a new model, says [Ann O’Leary, director of the Children and Families Program at the Center for the Next Generation, a San Francisco think tank.]: It tells people to buy coverage on the private market and taxes them if they don’t.

With the propaganda apparatus of Fox News and the right-wing media behind them, Republicans should have no problem perpetuating their lies about the Heritage mandate and the rest among their constituents for another election cycle or two, but they are increasingly going to have trouble convincing voters who get their news and information from mainstream sources. One sign of this comes from the most recent ABC-Washington Post poll (see question 14 here), which found an 8 point swing in favor of the ACA since April.

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