Republicans Own This Health Care Debacle

There are two reasons why I won’t refer to the Republican bill to repeal/replace Obamacare (AHCA) as “Trumpcare.” The first is that to suggest that Trump actually “cares” about the impact of this bill on the American public strains the imagination.

The second reason is that Trump is actually a johnny-come-lately to this whole fiasco. He simply embraced the repeal of Obamacare to further his standing with the Republican base to launch his presidential ambitions. On the other hand, whether the Republican bill passes today or not, they need to be held accountable for this fiasco because they have always been against any kind of meaningful health care reform.

In 2013 Josh Marshall released a memo written by Bill Kristol dating back to 1993 when the Clinton administration was in the midst of working on health care reform. In it, Kristol laid out a strategy of total obstruction for Republicans.

Faced with forceful objections in the past, the [Clinton] Administration has generally preferred to bargain and compromise with Congress so as to achieve any victory it can. But health care is not, in fact, just another Clinton domestic policy. And the conventional political strategies Republicans have used in the past are inadequate to the task of defeating the Clinton plan outright. That must be our goal…

Simple, green-eyeshades criticism of the plan…is fine so far as it goes. But in the current climate, such opposition only wins concessions, not surrender…

Any Republican urge to negotiate a “least bad” compromise with the Democrats, and thereby gain momentary public credit for helping the president “do something” about health care, should also be resisted.

In the end, with an assist from the insurance companies, Republicans were able to stop the Clinton health care reforms.

The Republicans revived the strategy of total obstruction when Obama initiated his efforts to reform health care. They were successful in stopping any Republican from voting for it – but were unable to keep it from passing a Democratically dominant Congress. During the discussion and after it’s passage, Republicans lied ruthlessly about what came to be known as Obamacare. It was described as government controlled health care that included death panels and would lead to job losses, to name just a few.

In addition, the Republicans launched law suits against Obamacare and came close to stopping it’s implementation via a case that made it to the Supreme Court. In the end, many Republican governors and legislators decided that ideology and obstruction would win out over the financial and health interests of their own citizens and refused to expand Medicaid.

Throughout all of that, Republicans vowed to repeal Obamacare and cast many unsuccessful votes to do so. They even shut the government down for a while over it.

The charade that Republicans ever had any better ideas of how to reform our health care system was exposed almost immediately after the 2016 election when they gained majorities in congress combined with a Republican president. We’ve watched them go from “repeal and replace” to “repeal and delay” and back to “repeal and replace.” Now we know that their “replace” plan will actually mean that 24 million Americans lose their health insurance, rich folks will get a huge tax cut and Medicaid will be decimated – leaving the situation worse than before Obamacare was passed. That is because their only goal has always been to stop health care reform.

It is not just Donald Trump that owns this debacle. Dating back to the days when Ronald Reagan suggested that Medicare was a socialist plot, Republicans have always been against anything that was designed to help Americans get access to health care.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.