Quick Takes: Republicans Still Can’t Agree on a Plan to Repeal Obamacare

* When I wrote yesterday about the chaos among Republicans on the particulars of their “repeal and delay” strategy on Obamacare, it was before top Senate Republicans met with Pence to hash things out. Apparently meeting with the vice president elect didn’t help much.

After meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Tuesday to hash out plans to repeal Obamacare, top Senate Republicans are no closer to resolving an issue that’s splintering the GOP heading into the start of Donald Trump’s presidency: how long to give themselves to replace the law…

“The view on that probably is in a constant state of evolution, based on who you talk to,” said Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP leader. “The question is: What’s that duration? Structurally, it’s at this point an open question. We’re hoping to get some direction.”…

The length of the transition is pitting hard-line conservatives such as Sen. Ted Cruz and members of the House Freedom Caucus, who favor a relatively speedy replacement, against Senate leaders who are pushing the three-year option.

“It took six years to get into this mess; it’s going to take us a while to get out of it,” said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas). “One thing I know for sure is we can’t fail to deliver on the promise to repeal Obamacare.”…

“The sooner we can get rid of it, the better,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the outgoing leader of the Freedom Caucus.

* Meanwhile, Minority Leader Schumer says, “Bring it on.”

“They have nothing to put in its place…And believe me, just repealing Obamacare, even though they have nothing to put in its place, and saying they’ll do it sometime down the road, will cause huge calamity, from one end of America to the other. They don’t know what to do. They’re like the dog that caught the bus.” So this rush to repeal? “To our Republican friends across the aisle,” he said, “bring it on.”

* Speaking of the huge calamity, Martin wrote earlier about warnings from the insurance companies about the Republican plans (or lack thereof). Hospitals have weighed in as well.

The nation’s hospital industry warned President-elect Donald Trump and congressional leaders on Tuesday that repealing the Affordable Care Act could cost hospitals $165 billion by the middle of the next decade and trigger “an unprecedented public health crisis.”

The two main trade groups for U.S. hospitals dispatched a letter to the incoming president and Capitol Hill’s top four leaders, saying that the government should help hospitals avoid massive financial losses if the law is rescinded in a way that causes a surge of uninsured patients.

* In case you’re wondering what the hospitals are worried about, it’s mostly about this:

Hospitals last year saw a big cut in their costs from treating people who couldn’t pay their bills – but the windfall was much larger in states that embraced a key Obamacare program, federal officials said Monday.

Nationally, hospitals had a total of $27.3 billion in so-called uncompensated costs, which come from treating people who lack the means to pay for their care out of pocket or through insurance, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department said.

That was an estimated $7.4 billion, or 21 percent less, than the $34.7 billion in uncompensated costs that hospitals would have incurred if health coverage levels had remained at the levels seen in 2013, before Obamacare took full effect, the department said.

In other words, affordable coverage – particularly via Medicaid expansion – has greatly reduced the losses hospitals incur for uncompensated care.

* Congress is also hearing from the American Academy of Actuaries (the folks who compile and analyze statistics and use them to calculate insurance risks and premiums) about the risks of repealing Obamacare.

Repealing major provisions of the ACA would raise immediate concerns that individual market enrollment would decline, causing the risk pools to deteriorate and premiums to become less affordable. Even if the effective date of a repeal is delayed, the threat of a deterioration of the risk pool could lead additional insurers to reconsider their participation in the individual market.

* I want to be encouraged by this. But how is anyone supposed to believe anything that comes out of Trump’s mouth when he says whatever he thinks will win him approval based on his audience at the moment? Or when he nominates someone like Jeff Sessions to be his Attorney General?

In an interview with Time magazine announcing him as “Person of the Year,” Trump didn’t go into specifics but signaled that he could find a way to accommodate the Dreamers.

“We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” Trump told the magazine. “They got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

* Against all factual evidence, the folks at Politico seem determined to cling to a bothsiderism view to our politics. Take a look at this headline: “Trump follows Obama’s political blueprint.”

Donald Trump is following much the same political blueprint his predecessor and longtime adversary laid out years ago, signaling he’ll actively intervene in the U.S. economy while antagonizing free-marketeers who say his meddling will end in disaster. It’s a funhouse-mirror version of Obama’s early image of the presidency — the man of action for down-and-out Americans who desperately want to see that somebody is on their side.

So yeah, Trump is just like Obama…except for the differences in situation, message and style.

The situations are, of course, vastly different: Obama was inheriting an economy in freefall, with the economy losing 500,000 jobs a month, while Trump enters office with an unemployment rate of just 4.6 percent. As is the message: Obama spoke of building a high-tech economy for the future; Trump vows to bring back the jobs of yesteryear. And the style: Trump threatens punishment; Obama tried persuasion.

* In case you had any doubts about what white supremacists assume they got out of this election, take a look at this from the guy who coined the term “alt right.”

* Finally, because I need to go out on a more upbeat note, watch this for old time’s sake:

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.